(Correne Coetzer) During the 2014 Geographic North Pole ski season the two Americans, Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen, became the first team since 2010 to successfully ski from land to the Geographic North Pole; a route associated with traveling against the ocean drift (the negative drift) and an early cold start when the sun is still low on the horizon.
They skied, snowshoed, swam and rafted on sleds from Cape Discovery, Canada, at about 83ºN, to 90ºN in 53 days (March 15 to May 6). The two men were unassisted (no resupplies) and unsupported (no kite, dog or vehicle support). Each pulled a 144 kg / 317 pound sledge at the start.
Here goes the duo’s 5 Top North Pole Tips:
1. Do not try and make long term goals, just focus on each day.
2. Be mentally prepared to deal with the constant stress of a changing and difficult environment.
3. Do not pare down your supplies too much to try and go light, you would be surprised how much you need things when you think they are not that important.
4. Start saving your money two years ago...
5. And be prepared for a small logistics window.
1. Plan and Prepare. Don't rush into it. The Arctic Ocean is a very humbling environment, and in my opinion most people underestimate how difficult the journey is. Test gear/travel strategies in the Arctic in January or February the year before you plan on leaving. My motto: train hard, travel easy.
2. Choose your partners wisely. I wanted a three-person team but we couldn't find the right person. While we were probably a bit slower as two people than I wanted to be, in the end we were both focused on the same goal (and didn't want to give up) and understood each other's perspectives, strengths and weaknesses and therefore, were able to work as an effective team. It is very easy to get on the Arctic Ocean and feel overwhelmed had we compromised and taken an untested third person, it's quite likely that they might have given up.
3. Problem - Solution. It seems that no matter how much you plan and prepare for the Arctic Ocean, problems arise. From broken equipment, to travel strategies, to ice conditions, this expedition just seems to destroy all your best laid plans. In the moment, it can seem like everything is lost, but the key is to understand that you can find a solution. It may not be the first thing you try, but it's there you just have to stick with it.
4. Don't skimp and don't take too much. There is obviously benefit in being light, but it can also come at a large cost. The environment is harsh enough on its own so being comfortable in the tent, having space to repair things and drying gear have substantial value as well and ultimately increase your chance of success. I called it The Polar Goldilocks Principle - not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.
5. Assess and Reassess. I think a lot of people get into trouble because they let their guard down and take short cuts. Efficiency (saving energy) is very important but it can't come at the cost of doing the 'right' thing. Each day is different - the conditions are different, your physical and mental energy level is different and therefore you need to respond differently. If you find yourself saying - 'well, I did this same thing yesterday, but I feel worse today' and don't change something you're going to get into trouble.
And my bonus advice to every expedition - drum roll please - be honest, authentic and sincere - I think there is a trend in the adventure world to make everything look harder than what it really is, and while I understand the reasons behind this (of course, it's difficult to make the North Pole expedition look any harder than it already is), I do think it's important to be factual and accurate in your representation of you and your adventure. If you're skiing to the Magnetic North Pole, state you're skiing to the '96 position of the Magnetic North Pole and not the North Pole... and so on. Too often the lines of fact get blurred and I think in the end it dilutes the efforts of everyone in the adventure community. Your story is good no matter where you go and how you get there. It doesn't matter if you're the 1,000th person to do it. It's your story and that makes it unique.
Check in again for more North Pole Top Tips.
Both Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen have climbed Everest; Ryan climbed both sides. Eric has skied twice from the coast of Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole and prior to this North Pole expedition, skied twice to the Geographic North Pole (partial canoed the second time); all expeditions were resupplied. Ryan did and unassisted unsupported ski crossing of Antarctica and has been on 14 expeditions to 8000 meter peaks, he explains, "I missed the summit on a few of those but that is part of big mountain climbing. Several of the trips were to the same peak because I have guided on a lot of those. It seems important to clarify that since that magic 14 number happens to be special in the 8000 meter world…"
A note on the North Pole ski distance: It is calculated in a straight line from where the skiers start to 90ºN. What is not added, are all the detours around high ridges, ice blocks, rubble or leads (open water). Also not added are the negative drift and relaying sleds.
ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, "the North Pole is like going into battle”
ExWeb interview with Eric Larsen: "The North Pole is easily ten times harder than Everest or the South Pole”
ExWeb interview with Eric Philips, innovation and North Pole expeditions
Veteran Russian polar explorer, Dmitry Shparo's Top 5 North Pole Tips
Opinion: Richard Weber's Top 5 Reasons for North Pole expedition failure
North Pole success: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen arrived at the 90ºN!
North Pole season closed down with last flight
The Hunger Game: Yasu Ogita recaps his North Pole expedition
North Pole: Bengt Rotmo talks to ExWeb from the Arctic Ocean
Finland’s Jaakko Heikka talks to ExWeb about Greenland’s horizontal ski route
Jose Mijares and dog Lonchas summited highest mountain on Svalbard
Building the High Performance Adventure Team: Sean Chapple’s insights
Ryan Waters’ website
Eric Larsen’s website
AdventureStats: successful expeditions past 7 years:
Land to Geographic North Pole
2014: 1x unassisted ski team from Canada
2013: 1x car team from Russia (did a crossing)
2010: 1x unassisted ski team from Canada
3x assisted ski teams from CA
2009: 1x unassisted ski team from CA
1x assisted ski team from CA
2008: 1x assisted ski team from Russia (winter exped)
2007: 1x assisted ski team from CA
Geographic North Pole to Land
2013: 1x assisted dog team to CA
2012: 1x unassisted ski and kayak team to Svalbard
2011: 2x assisted ski teams to CA
2009: 1x unassisted ski team to Greenland
2007: 1x unassisted ski and kayak team to Franz
1x assisted ski team to Greenland
assisted = resupplied
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