North By North Pole

At the beginning of March, I shared the story of John Huston and Tyler Fish. These two wanted to be the first Americans to ski unassisted to the North Pole. They did it on April 25th, the 55th day of the mission. By not without some drama. Here is an excerpt from a press release less than two days earlier:

Minneapolis, Minn. (8 a.m. April 24, 2009) – Forward Expeditions LLC announced today that John Huston and Tyler Fish will now have to ski, snowshoe and possibly swim 28 nautical miles in approximately 50 hours to reach the North Pole by Sunday morning, April 26. Huston and Fish are on Day 53 of their historic Victorinox® North Pole ’09 Expedition, and the Russian base that has agreed to fly them out from the Pole is closing on Sunday due to deteriorating sea ice conditions. If they have not reached the Pole by that deadline, the flight will pick them up where they are – even though that might be just a few miles from their goal.

They were leaving one way or the other but after many months of preparation and 50+ days of travel in brutal conditions they were not to be denied. They traveled for 16 hours and 15 minutes on their last day! That was after working shifts of traveling for 12 hours and resting for three  for the three days before that. Pushing themselves to the limit on a  475-mile trek to the North Pole from Canada’s Ellesmere Island.

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 John is a local, Chicago area boy. 32 years old. Graduated from Northwestern University in 1999. He had already led an exhibition to the South Pole. Not bad for 32. Too bad he is a White Sox fan. No accounting for taste.

 

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Tyler Fish is an old man of 35. According to his bio on the expedition website, According to Tyler, there has never been a day too cold to strap on some sort of ski.  He spends his winters skiing at a competitive level in long distance cross-country ski marathons and also coaching a local ski team in Ely, Minnesota. 

Since I heard they made it I have been considering adjectives to describe what they did. Heroic? Maybe. They did not save lives but they meet this definition of Hero (from Dictionary.com) “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities”. Amazing? Certainly but not particularly descriptive or illuminating. Courageous. Definitely. I am open to reader suggestions.

One point of trivia. They consumed 8,000 calories a day. Think 320 candy bars. They say with all they worked off it could have been more. Now there is a diet. The North Pole Diet. Copyrighted. Next $1 million idea.

Check out the Expedition website here.

Skiing to the North Pole

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The frigid winter is not something I seek, though admittedly I choose to live in the Midwest. So when I heard that John Huston and Tyler Fish are choosing to ski unassisted to the North Pole my interest was piqued. While they have been training for many months, the official start is today, March 1 (though there has been a 24 hour delay due to weather).

How did I first learn about this expedition? One of the two is a Chicago area guy who over the summer was seen running in Lincoln Park. Not unusual.  Except for the chains attached to the 4 tires he was pulling. This part of his training caught the attention of the local radio stations and the Chicago Tribune.

Their website amazes me. Here are some things I learned.

They list six challenges to a successful expedition:

  1. Polar bears. Over ten feet tall, 1400 pounds and oh btw they are hard to see during a white out.
  2. Cold, Wet and Wind. Average cold temp will be -35 degrees with low lows as low as -76 degrees. It is very humid so moisture control is a problem–especially when you are pulling a friggin’ sled while skiing. Sweat much?
  3. Drifting ice. There will be times when the ice is drifting backward faster than they are skiing forward.
  4. Rubble and pressure ridges. There will be times that they will use energy going around stuff instead of being able to follow the most direct route.
  5. Dark and Light. Darkness slows everything down (duh). But by the end of the trip they will have 24 hours of sunlight each day.
  6. Open water. Get this. This one would stop me well before my fear of polar bears–which is already off the fear scale. At times they will don wet suits and swim, pulling their sleds through arctic water. I may never warm up completely just thinking about that.

Other factoids:

  • The good news is they get to consume 7000 calories a day
  • The trip is planned from March 1 through April 26
  • They will cover 525 miles by ski or snowshoe
  • If successful they will be the first from the USA to complete this voyage. Only 22 people have done this before them–ever

So why are these two skiing unassisted to the North Pole? Sure they may get a moment or two of fame but not the Paris Hilton type that can be turned into a paid career of doing nothing other than being famous.

According to them this is a trip of Optimism, Humility and Responsible action. They want to inspire people to take on great things, to challenge themselves.

I am inspired. To what I am not yet sure. I do plan to check their blog everyday to find out how they are doing. If you want to as well they are now added to my blogroll.

If nothing else I commit to stop complaining about the weather in Chicago–at least for 2009.