Trekking to the North Pole

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 21-27, 1996
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Trekking to the North Pole
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Trekking to the North Pole
Question: I would like to trek the North Pole this summer and need to know a good travel source.

Kirk Harrington
Augusta, GA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Well, Kirk, I'm going to assume you mean this in the most literal sense. Not an overland ski trek to the magnetic North Pole (some island in the Arctic Ocean "a completely different place on the globe than the North Pole," says polar guru, Paul Schurke, with a slight smirk). And definitely not a champaign-and-caviar 10-hour flight from Resolute for 20 minutes of revelry on the Pole. If this is the case and you're serious about doing the full nine yards--a 200-plus-mile ski/dogsled trek to the top of the world--there's really only one option: Wintergreen Expeditions. But wait, before you balk: This is no guided tour with cushy amenities and a full staff of hired help to serve your every need. If accepted, you'll be one of eight team members, with your own responsibilities in setting up arctic camps, leading sled dogs over moving ice floes, and generally just pulling your weight to make sure the team gets there in one piece. Here's how it works: The team is airlifted from Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean to the launching point at--ready for this?--88 degrees north latitude, a cold patch of ice in the Arctic Circle and the historic jumping-off spot for explorers' "last dash to the Pole." From there, it's 200 miles and two to three weeks of skiing and dogsledding to the North Pole, where you'll celebrate with a well-earned party that'll likely entail a couple giddy glasses of champagne and a few minutes of goofy dancing around with hands in the air before the plane comes to pick you up.

Because this is a fairly rigorous undertaking, not just any Joe Schmoe can plunk his or her money down and reserve a spot. You'll need to call Paul for an expedition portfolio and preliminary application, he'll then do an initial screening, weed out non-contenders, and narrow the field to about 12. If you make that first cut, you'll be asked up to Wintergreen's winter training grounds in Minnesota's Boundary Waters for a multi-day training expedition ("We think of it as a bit of a shakedown," Paul explains). Show your expedition prowess, tolerance for cold temperatures, and good teamwork skills, and they'll invite you to join their team of eight to the Pole for the low, low cost of $25,000 per person. If the price makes you wince, console yourself with the knowledge that if you make the team, shell out the dough, and make it to the top of the world, you definitely will have earned the right to brag about it later. Trips run every other year (this year's one of them). Call Paul in Ely, Minnesota, at 218-365-6022 for details.

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