(Jim Paulson) It was the first American unsupported and unsupplied trip to the North Pole. Writing about it felt like another whole expedition, they said. John Huston and Tyler Fish just released their book Forward and the book (available for purchase at $40.00 on the expedition website) is already acclaimed by readers. Jim Paulson interviewed the skiers/authors for ExplorersWeb.
Jim: It's been two years since the North Pole. What have you been doing since?
Tyler: I’ve focused on my most important jobs: being a father and husband, and staffing director for Outward Bound, and local ski coach.
John: Writing the book, speaking, guiding, consulting, and working part time in real estate.
Jim: Talk about the process of writing the book? Any challenges?
John: It took us more than six months to feel ready to start writing. Right after the expedition we were too close to the experience and needed to let it breathe a bit. The entire writing process was much more involved and time consuming than we anticipated. It felt like another whole expedition, only without the singleness of focus that comes with being on the ice. It took a lot of whittling down and tweaking to get the narrative to the final product. All in all the process provided perfect closure to the whole expedition experience. We’re closer than ever and we’re happy that we put our experience on paper.
Tyler: Of course—there’s compromise any time you mix real life and expedition life. That’s hard for everyone involved. John and I have grown closer through the book project. We’ve thought a lot, encouraged each other, and laughed a lot.
Jim: What do you hope the reader takes away from the book?
John: We don’t have any set expectations. We just hope we did a good job of conveying what’s it’s like to race for the pole and to live on the Arctic Ocean. We set out to produce an engaging, honest, and fun book, hopefully we’ve accomplished that.
Jim: Is the book a how-to book? Or more of a personal journey story?
John: The book is our personal story, but also includes insights into dealing with the cold, equipment choices, and training, etc. We feel we’re a great team, but we had our personal struggles out there and we didn’t want to gloss over that.
Tyler: Some of both. No one will get all the practical answers––that’s impossible. But they’ll be able to ask better questions.
Jim: If you were to do the expedition again, would you do anything differently? What would you absolutely not change?
Tyler: Very little I’d do differently. I’d leave behind the 5% of our equipment that we ultimately didn’t like. I’d eat the same, keep our routines the same, and sleep as much as possible early in the trip. I wouldn’t change John. We were the team to do this.
John: We’d bring more butter and salt, start from Cape Discovery, and forgo all the blogging. Blogging is part of the package days, but alters the expeditionary mentality and eats up time. Also, at least one layover day would have been nice. Our training was just awesome––we had no physical issues at all.
Jim: What are the moments you most fondly remember from your time on the Ocean?
John: We loved the rubble, so entertaining and mind blowing and fun to navigate through. Long slow alpenglow evenings gave us some of the best skiing of our lives. Dinner.
Tyler: Any problem-solving opportunity brought us together. There’s also a time in the heart of a long expedition, when you’re neither too tired, too worried, too focused nor too grumpy. You’re playing with the journey. Life doesn’t get any better than that moment.
Jim: Who or what was the inspiration behind your approach to the expedition?
Tyler: Here’s our recipe. Take a personal drive to explore and be challenged by adventure, add some significant and formative years with Outward Bound. Then stir in some influential personal connections with good friends. Stand on the willing and broad shoulders of those who have come before: Norwegians and Canadians who created their own good luck by consistently doing the right things. Balance it all with unyielding optimism and humility to figure out what would ultimately work for us.
John: We wanted to take on the expedition in a manner that would show respect to those who have gone before, especially the quiet personalities who don’t necessarily get all the attention but who always seem to succeed.
Jim: What are a few elements that brought about your success?
John: A long term goal, patient planning and training, and total commitment.
Tyler: Work hard. Live by the routines. Take care of each other. Rest when you can. Don’t rush it. Take the risk at the right moment.
Jim: Do you have any encouraging words for those that are planning for their own "North Pole?"
Tyler: Listen to opinions, but understand how all the elements of someone else’s approach fit together. It’s dynamic and interconnected. Add a piece or remove a piece and beware of the effect on everything else. The person is the most significant element. Know thyself. Really.
John: Prepare like Amundsen.
Jim: What's next for you? Any adventures in the works?
John: Nothing planned at the moment, but we’ll be back out on the ice.
In 2009 John Huston and Tyler Fish became the first Americans to reach the North Pole unsupported and unassisted. John was part of the Modern Amundsen team for the 2005 BBC/History Channel Documentary Blizzard: Race to the Pole. In 2007/2008 he guided an expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. This year Tyler co-led a 30-day research and documentary expedition on the Arctic Ocean for the Catlin Arctic Survey. John resides in Evanston, Illinois, and Tyler lives in Ely, Minnesota.
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