Last Friday, polar explorer and mountaineer Eric Larsen completed a rare fall summit on Mt. Everest. For most climbers, that would be a big enough accomplishment for any given year, but for Larsen, it was simply the third, and final, leg of a major expedition that saw him become the first person to reach both the North and South Pole, as well as the summit of the highest mountain on the planet, in a single calendar year.
Larsen launched his Save the Poles Expedition in November of last year, beginning the long journey across the desolate Antarctic continent to reach the South Pole. On January 2nd, 2010 he accomplished that feat, wrapping up the first leg of his planned expedition. In late April, he followed up his success at the bottom of the world by reaching the top, completing the second stage of the expedition by reaching the North Pole after 51 days out on the ice.
With the first two stages of the expedition out of the way, Larson had just Everest, which is sometimes referred to as the Third Pole, to conquer. Standing 29,035 feet in height, the mountain is a considerable challenge during it’s traditional climbing season, which falls in the spring. But that season also happens to overlap with the annual window to reach the North Pole, so Larsen was forced to schedule the climb in the fall, which has far fewer climbers on the mountain and offers more unpredictable weather. During the spring season it is not uncommon for 500 climbers to reach the summit of Everest from both the Nepali and Tibetan sides of the mountain. This fall, Larsen, along with his two Sherpa guides, were the only people to stand at the top of the world.
The Save the Poles Expedition was designed to raise awareness of the impact of global climate change on the extreme environments of our planet, something that Larsen has now experienced first hand. The explorer now hopes to take that message to the masses as he hits the speaking circuit to share his adventures with others.
Considering the very active year he’s had so far, I think it is also safe to say that Larsen has earned some much deserved downtime on a warm beach somewhere.
[Photo credit: Eric Larsen]