South African’s night polar trek

24 March 2006

After 60 days and five hours, South African Mike Horn and Norwegian Børge Ousland have become the first men ever to walk to the North Pole completely unassisted in the Arctic winter.

On 22 January, the two men set off on the first ever attempt to walk to the North Pole in the sunless Arctic winter, unassisted by machines or dogs.

‘On the very top of the world’
“It’s great to finally be standing on the North Pole,” Horn said on his website. “This mystical place is all that it is made out to be. It’s incredible out here!

“Børge and I have walked far and the conditions have been extremely tough – but we’ve made it. I can’t tell you how happy we are feeling!

“We are alone out here, standing on the very top of the world.”

‘Eventful trip’
The adventurers crossed 1 000km of polar landscape, walking or skiing 10 to 12 hours a day in total darkness. The men towed their supplies behind them, on sleds weighing 160 kilograms at the start of their journey.

“It was an eventful trip,” Horn said. “We had to walk days and days on end in complete darkness, had several encounters with polar bears, problems with equipment, and swam many times across open leads, all this in extremely cold temperatures getting as low as -50°C.

“We certainly have a lot to tell you about when we get back.”

Mike Horn North Pole 2006
South African explorer Mike Horn and Norwegian Børge Ousland walked 1 000km to the North Pole
(Source: Mike Horn: North Pole)

Their departure from Cape Arktichevsky on Schredny Island was timed so that they would, if all went well, arrive at the Pole in time for the 21 March Equinox, the first time that the sun would be visible above the polar horizon.

The adventurers arrived at the Pole on 23 March, two days after the Equinox, with eight days’ supplies remaining.

Their journey, completed in the Arctic winter, sets a new record for the Polar trek.

Extreme adventures
“Obstacles are as big as you personally make them,” says Horn.

The 39-year-old South African, who now lives in Switzerland, has swum the 700 kilometre length of the Amazon on a hydrospeed, a kind of float.

In 1999 Horn embarked on the Latitude Zero expedition, a solo circumnavigation of the Earth around the equator. He completed the epic trip in 17 months, using no motorised transport, and was awarded the 2001 Laureus Alternative Sportsperson of the Year award for his feat.

He’s no stranger to the polar regions either, having completed a 20 000km, 27-month circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle. This, dubbed the Arktos Expedition, was also a solo trip unaided by motorised transport.

‘Training’
“We’ve decided to camp on the Pole for a few more days,” Horn said. “We’ve worked hard to get here and now we can really sit back and enjoy our accomplishment.”

They will be collected in a few days by a helicopter from the nearby Russian Barneo Base. A week after that they will be able to fly out, and back to Europe.

Horn regards this 1 000km trek by foot through one of the Earth’s most inhospitable regions as “training” for his next expedition, the Seven Wonders, the details of which he’ll reveal on his return from the North Pole.

SouthAfrica.info reporter