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Evergreen Trees in Winter

Crazy Cold and Crazy People

February 12, 2018

By Wolf Ridge Naturalist

Eric Larsen

What is the craziest thing that you can imagine doing? Think about it for a minute, this post can wait.

What if I told you that I was offered the opportunity to go to Lake Winnipeg and camp in negative 40-degree weather in order to train to go to the North Pole. Oh yeah, and I only had 2-weeks notice that this was going to happen. Are you laughing at the absurdity of this trip yet, because “past me” is! But I made a New Year’s resolution to be more spontaneous, so I accepted and two weeks later I was camping in the middle of Lake Winnipeg. Well, it was actually only about 3 miles from the shore, but the 20mph wind and snow made it so that we couldn’t see the coastline. Am I crazy, or by giving in to that deep internal desire for adventure, was I living my best life? The jury is still out, but I can tell you that it was one heck of a trip.

Traveling to the North Pole requires specialized knowledge, so if you want to do it right, a.k.a. survive, you need to learn from an expert. Enter Eric Larsen, an experienced polar traveler and Wolf Ridge naturalist program alum. Over the first 3 days he teaches us how to set up tents in high winds, what kind of nutrition is necessary to sustain your body weight in this extreme environment, how to melt water efficiently, and how to ski while pulling a 50 lb. sandbag—I mean supplies. Sounds pretty simple right? But then on day 4, he kicks you out of the cabin, challenges you to ski for 7 miles into the wind in extremely cold weather, set up tent, and then tells you that you are going to do it all again the next day, and it somehow changes from simple to extreme pretty quickly. Plus, I almost forgot the best part, he teaches you how to poop in a bag in the middle of a lake, just so you can stick it in your sled and drag it around for the next 5 days of the expedition.

I might be making this whole trip sound horrible, but it really wasn’t. It’s just hard to put into words what made this trip so amazing because most of the day was spent surviving with only fleeting moments of beauty and clarity. Like that time I felt like a total bada$$ after I pulled my sled through a pressured ice field. Or that time I saw the most amazing stars and heard howling wolves. Or that time I realized that even though the people around me have more knowledge and experience, it doesn’t diminish my worthiness to be on this trip and I gained so much confidence in myself. Those were all pretty cool experiences.

This trip taught me that cold weather and extreme environments exist out there to be explored. There are a whole lot of companies making specialized gear for this community of cold weather warriors. And this trip taught me that there are two types of explorers in this community: those who have a lot of experience and confidence and are continually innovating or helping others reach their destination, and those who have little experience but have a willingness to see how far they can go and how many limits they can overcome. I’d like to think that most people fall into the second category and I’d like to end this blog post by encouraging everyone to get outside and find adventure. Because adventure exists everywhere. And of course, if you ever see a Facebook post offering a scholarship to attend a crazy-sounding polar training course: apply. You never know what will happen.

Scholarship sponsored by Helly Hansen, Allied Feather and Down, and Eric Larsen Explore