Eric Larsen is not your average Polar explorer. Yes he has already made difficult and successful trips to both poles, yet he is not satisfied. Next up is what he calls the 3rd Pole, Mt. Everest.
What is a lifetime goal for some, is a year-long one for Eric. I recently caught up with him at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake to talk about his Fall, 2010 Everest expedition.
What is driving this 39 year-old man from Minnesota? Eric has a long fascination of Polar travel and was seeing his beloved terrain slowly slip away. So he felt he could raise visibility, with credibility, by actually visiting the 3 Poles and telling the world what he was seeing first hand. And what he is seeing alarms him. Eric told me “while we are seeing the most dramatic changes in the polar regions, this is definitely an issue that affects us all”
His polar trips have not been easy. He spent 41 days skiing 600 miles to the South Pole in 2008 and made history in 2006 by crossing the Arctic Ocean in the summer on his way to the North Pole. For his “Save the Poles” project, Eric returned once again to the poles.
In January of 2010, Eric and his team successfully completed a 750-mile, 48-day jaunt to the South Pole on skis. Then after over 500 tough miles and 51 days on the ice and open water, Eric and team reached the North Pole on Earth Day, April 22, 2010. And yes, he has had a few up close and personal brushes with polar bears! (no polar bear encounters in 2010 – only 2005 and 2006)
However, mountaineering remains somewhat elusive for this ambitious explorer. While his brief climbing experiences have been fruitful, he has never been above 8,000 meters. His high point has been an impressive 22,000 on Ojos De Salado in Argentina.
In 2009, he made a swift climb of Denali going from the 14K camp to the summit in one push. The entire expedition lasted only 6 days instead of the normal 2 weeks. In preparation for Everest, Eric has recently climbed Rainier; a climb he called “not trivial.”
I asked Eric what he doing differently to prepare for Everest. Mostly aerobic training was his answer through cycling and climbing in the Colorado Rockies near his temporary home in Boulder. He said that skiing the Poles was more of a sustained effort where you take one step at a time with little down time. Mountaineering, on the other hand, involved a series of high energy pushes followed by several rest days.
Eric is aware of the low success rate for fall Everest climbs but feels that nothing is impossible. He says it is easy to sit at home and not try but Saving the Poles is too important for that. He will be climbing with the Kathmandu outfitter, Himalayan Trail Blazers. Eric believes there are only two other teams attempting Everest from the south this Fall.
As for clothing, Eric is bringing more layers than he usually does for arctic trips. With the downtime, he knows he will be more exposed to the cold elements than the continuous activity of daily skiing. He is counting on a custom down suit from Sierra Design to keep him warm on summit night. He will be using the Phantom 8000 boots from Scarpa. He used a pair of these for his South Pole ski trip made with a telemark sole.
Finally, I asked Eric if he felt he was making a dent in the effort to save the poles. He cites his 200 million impressions for his Polar trips as evidence word is getting out. He also noted that the social media tools of Facebook and Twitter have been critical to helping people follow him.
His mantra is “Individual Action, National Legislation” and works with partner organizations to drive bills though the government.
In the end, Eric sums up his quest with a simple, yet powerful thought: “It all begins with one step. I don’t care what you do, but just do something”.You can follow Eric on his website Save the Poles .
Best of luck this Fall Eric.
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site