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Winter ski to the North Pole is no walk in the park

By Staff
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OSLO, May 2 (Reuters) Nearly 100 years after explorers first reached the North and South Poles, Norwegian Boerge Ousland believes he too has etched his name into polar exploration's Hall of Fame.

Countryman Roald Amundsen was first to the South Pole in 1911, beating Briton Robert Falcon Scott who died with his team on the return trip after a heroic race. American Robert Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole first in 1909.

All of the men spent years mapping the unknown polar regions.

Ousland's generation of polar adventurers do things differently.

They move fast and hard across the Arctic and Antarctic, alone or in small groups, carrying just enough food and equipment to last a few months without support.

And Ousland, a 20-year veteran, is probably top of the pile.

''It will be hard to match my record, if it ever will be done,'' he told Reuters during an interview at his home on the outskirts of the Norwegian capital.

The 43-year-old explorer had only just returned a few days earlier from completing another ''first''. This time he and South African Mike Horn had been the first people to ski to the North Pole during winter, a journey nobody had even attempted before.

''People said it was impossible. Too hard, too cold, too dark,'' Ousland said.

On March 23, the pair reached the North Pole after 61 days dragging their 155-kg sledges across nearly 1,000 km of ice and water -- in pitch-black darkness through howling winds and temperatures of around minus 35 degrees Celsius.

''This is one of the greatest things I have done. It creates a new chapter in Arctic travel,'' Ousland said.

AMAZON SWIM Ousland's list of achievements was already long.

In 1990, he was part of a team that skied to the North Pole without any outside support, four years later he made the first solo unsupported trek to the North Pole, in 1996/7 he beat the British explorer Ranulph Fiennes as the first person to ski across Antarctica alone and in 2001, he crossed the Artic alone.

But this latest trip was his crowning achievement, he said.

''I don't think this will be done again. Somebody may try but I don't think they will succeed.'' The harsh winter weather made the risks extremely high.

''It was a one-way ticket, we could not have been rescued. When we started the helicopter pilots did not even want to fly us out,'' he said.

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