Reaching the North Pole

Explorers Mike Horn and Borge Ousland reach the North Pole

By Geoffrey Gray

Geoffrey is a NY Times author, documentary producer, and journalist

After sailing off from the rugged port of Nome Alaska, and facing battering winds, thinning ice and dwindling food supplies, Mike Horn and Borge Ousland have finally reached the North Pole, a life’s achievement for the most ambitious explorers, but only the half-way point for the duo attempting to circumnavigate the earth’s both poles.

“We have finally made it to the North Pole!” Horn reported a few days ago. “It has been a long and challenging journey to get here but we never lost hope, and never gave ourselves the option for failure.”

Over the past several weeks, Horn and Ousland, who attempted a north pole crossing in 2006 have battled the most extreme conditions in the changing Arctic. Lugging heavy sleds into fearsome winds, the ice pack underneath them has thinned significantly since their return North, they reported. After falling through a more fragile ice multiple times, they were forced to crawl and use a system of rafts and bags to keep themselves dry and survive in one of the planet’s most unforgiving places.

“So great to be here after all the hardship,” Ousland said.

To keep warm and conserve energy when they are not in the ice, Horn and Ousland rarely leave their sleeping bags. To celebrate their ascendance to North Pole, they toasted with a special piece of cake that Horn had squirreled away in his pack, and a recipe given to Horn by Philippe Rochat, the Swiss and Michelin-star chef. “He created a candied-fruit cake soaked in rum that wouldn’t expire and that wouldn’t freeze in even the coldest temperatures,” Horn said. “What a luxury to be eating something so delicious in one of the world’s most remote locations!”

Photo by ROAM | Santino Martirano

In their updates on voicemails left to the ROAM office, Horn and Ousland were most surprised by the impact of Climate Change on the ice.

“We once knew this remote region like the back of our hands, but at the pace at which things are changing, we are now foreigners on our own playground,” Horn said.

Along with thin ice and perilously cold water underneath them, the Arctic winds have tested their physical and mental strength.

“The continuous winds suck all the energy out of us,” Horn said. “I’ve been comparing it to negative people…move away from negativity in life and surround yourself with positive people that care for you.”

Now at the half-way point of the expedition, Horn and Ousland are empowered by reaching the Pole. “The hardest part is probably ahead, but now we will be heading south and home!”

The winds are now at their backs — only a few degrees to go, through darkness and fog, they will be picked up at about 82 Degrees North above Svalbard Norway!

“Nothing worth doing in life will ever be easy, and to achieve anything special, you need to dig deep to find the necessary resources to make it special,” Horn said. “Now that it is done, we know it is possible. Against all odds, the only person that can make a difference in your own life is yourself.”

For more on Mike Horn and Borge Ousland’s journey check out Fram to Pangaea and At the Limit and for more North Pole content, Quest for a True First.

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