North Pole Odyssey Plus 2006
By Richard Laronde
Going to the North Pole was a childhood dream of mine, right along with going to the moon. A good friend tells me that sometime around 1980, I claimed that I was going to the North Pole and into space. So I am one-for-two now (well, really one-for-three because number two is now the South Pole).
When I discovered that the dream could become a reality, I started looking for a guide to the North Pole. I visited many web sites which claimed they could get me there. There were descriptions of the trip and a few pictures of unidentified people standing at the Pole. And of course, there were instructions on how to send the money.
When I came to icetrek.com, I found more than just the usual information: pictures and short videos of real people with names, trekking to and arriving at the Pole, messages being sent back from the ice, etc. In fact, it's a huge website that includes personal accounts of polar history and current conditions, which can be visited for many enjoyable hours.
Eric sent me detailed information on arrangements and the equipment I should bring. Compiling this equipment was an enjoyable way to prepare for the expedition. I also spent more time at the gym getting in shape.
At Longyearbyen, Eric reviewed my equipment and gave advice and encouragement. He arranged for us to get one of the four window seats in the transport to Borneo.
The ice is like another world. The scenery is ever-changing with leads and pressure ridges, indescribably beautiful. The sun does not rise or fall, it rotates around the horizon. The skiing was relatively easy; I had had more difficulty on a frozen lake back home. The cold was intense, but with proper preparation, caution and the right equipment, quite manageable.
A Polish SCUBA expedition was camping near the Pole when we arrived. There were huge heated tents and every convenience. The team invited us to breakfast. Later in the day, three Norwegians arrived from Canada after 48 days of travel, breaking the previous 60-day record. Eric and I polished up the good silver and invited them to dinner in the Icetrek tent.
Arriving at the Pole was far more rewarding than I imagined. I was prepared for the ice and the cold and the joy of reaching our destination. I was not prepared for the wonderful people I would meet, and the ways by which making their acquaintance would make the trip even more incredible.
I was coincidentally able to meet some wonderful, adventurous people who accepted me as an equal. It was the trip of a lifetime. My wife said that for the first time in my life, I was rendered speechless when I tried to explain the experience.
Next is the South Pole, and then I'll think about number three.
Richard Laronde lives in Walpole, MA, USA.
To register your interest for one of our North Pole expeditions, contact Icetrek.
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