Ringing up a polar expedition

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 25-October 1, 1997
Bicycle touring around Vermont
Ringing up a polar expedition
Car-camping near Washington D.C.
Warm-weather trips with kids
Renting a house in the tropics

Ringing up a polar expedition
Question: If a person is a part of a team and expected to do his or her share of the work involved, why is it so expensive to go to the North Pole? All my life I've wanted to visit either pole, but at the prices they charge, they'd better be serving Dom Perignon!

Tyler Erdmann
Tonawanda, NY
[email protected]

Sled dogs are a major concern of any expedition to the North and South Pole

Adventure Adviser: It's sad, but true. From an economic standpoint, the poles are grossly out of reach for the average working stiff. But when you consider the reasons why, it makes good sense that they aren't as cheap as a weekend in Acapulco.

Reason number one: The poles are terribly remote, which means you can't exactly stock up on PowerBars at the nearest health food store before your jaunt to the North Pole.

Every food item, every clothing item, every piece of toilet paper has to be hauled in on the back of some poor sled dog who's pulling more than his share of the weight. This means in addition to paying for your food, you have to buy dog food.

Reason number two: If you've never done a polar expedition, chances are you don't know squat about what's involved. Your expedition leader will know a heck of a lot more than you do because he's already risked his life once or twice and has proven he can survive. You're paying for his expertise — which will probably keep you alive in some way or another.

Reason number three: Polar expeditions are a logistical nightmare. You have to pack around everything from toothpaste to expedition-weight tents and sleeping bags. You also have many more than yourself to shuttle to your starting point — primarily dogs, sleds, and tons of gear. In the end, it all adds up to one big bill, not to mention one big adventure.

If you really want a polar-style expedition, I'd recommend a trip to Alaska or the Yukon in the dead of winter. Chances are, you'll see the same barren territory, but you'll be a bit closer to the civilized world, which means you won't have to shell out the big bucks.

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