Eric Larsen

Polar Explorer, 36

Eric Larsen photographed in Minnesota at Lake Superior     Photo: Bobby Fisher

"I love winter," explains explorer and global-warming advocate Eric Larsen when asked what a dog-musher with limited mountaineering experience is doing planning an Everest expedition. "I'm trying to tell the story of the last great frozen places on earth, and the reality is that those places are disappearing." The other reality is that the polar-exploration race seems to have shifted focus—from who can go farthest or get there first to who can craft the most compelling podcasts about what we've got before it's gone. In the battle for storyline, the Grand Marais, Minnesota–based Larsen, who has been to Canada's Hudson Bay and to the North Pole, among other expeditions, has come up with a winner: His 2009 Save the Poles project (savethepoles.com) is a quixotic quest to reach the North and South poles and the summit of Everest (the "third pole") within 365 days. He's been planning the trip while touring the country giving climate-change lectures and working on a book about his 2006 summer expedition to the North Pole. "It was definitely an eye-opening experience," says Larsen of that journey, during which he contended with thinning ice and a confused polar bear well outside its usual domain. "I became focused on being more responsible in my personal life." On the Save the Poles trip, Larsen plans to post regular blog updates and collect scientific material for the National Snow and Ice Data Center for a documentary about his yearlong journey. "I'm an optimist," he says. "People have an amazing ability to affect their environment for positive or negative. But we need to do things right now."

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