Conquering Extremes

American polar adventurer and educator Eric Larsen is the first person to have set foot at the North Pole, the South Pole, and atop Mount Everest within 365 days. He talks daily fitness regime, the popularity of tourist polar expeditions, and tips for travelling to the planet’s coldest destinations.


How did your fascination with the poles begin?

It started when I was reading about historical expeditions and exploration as a kid. In the mid-1990s, I got a job as a dog musher and went on some of my first winter expeditions, which simply sparked my interest in bigger, bolder and colder expeditions.

How do you endure the extreme conditions of these remote locations?

Everything about polar expeditions is work. Staying safe and warm in the most extreme environments on the planet takes constant vigilance. Therefore, I am constantly checking in with myself and the environment. Of course, I also rely on high quality gear and equipment.

What can we do to improve our fitness and flexibility before undertaking these kinds of adventures?

I spend a lot of time on my bike. When it comes to prepping for a big adventure, I generally focus on strength endurance training as well - pulling heavy truck tires with a harness or hauling a heavy pack of rocks up the Colorado mountains in my backyard.

What’s the most important gear you take on arctic expeditions?

It's hard to take one piece of gear or equipment out of the equation and expect to be successful. Everything is important. Of course, the knowledge to use everything and be careful is paramount.

Give us some tips for preparing for a polar adventure.

My philosophy on preparing is to train hard and travel easy. For any big adventure, I try to determine all the potential areas for failure (gear, weather, etc) then work to solve each as best as I can. We spend a lot of time simply researching and testing gear.

You’re also polar expedition guide; how do you see tourist expeditions to the North and South Poles evolving?

I think the awareness of polar adventures has become much greater in the past five years. Therefore, the numbers of people who are interested in one of my Last Degree expeditions or Level 1 Polar Training courses is increasing dramatically. Ultimately, the draw of this type of travel is that it hasn't changed much at its core; it's still pulling together everything that you need to live and survive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

It’s your last day on earth; would you be in the Arctic or Antarctica?

Flip a coin. They're both incredible.