Eric Larsen, 40, is the first person to have reached the South Pole, the North Pole, and Mount Everest's summit within the span of one year. He spent 48 days traversing Antarctica, 51 days trudging the Arctic, and 45 days conquering Earth's highest peak before coming home to Boulder, Colorado, in 2010. He blogged and tweeted the entire way for his Save the Poles project, whose goal is to get people to care — and do something — about climate change.
Q: How did you get the idea to set this record?
A: It came to me at end of another expedition I completed in 2006, when I was at the North Pole in summertime. I was surprised to see more water than ice, and I realized that my next trip could be a really powerful tool to inspire others to act.
Q: How do you use your own travel to inspire someone else’s actions?
A: Not everyone has the ability to go to these remote places, so I think there's a lot of value when someone’s doing something that most people can’t. What I try to do when I’m there is build an emotional connection. A lot of people see the North Pole as a vast space with a blank personality, so I was painting a really vivid picture that gives people a human connection to draw on when they ultimately hear about how those places are being lost. My journeys serve as an overall source of inspiration. I’m an average person. I’m not the smartest, not the strongest, not the fastest. When you realize what average people are capable of, it inspires us all to overcome whatever big obstacles we might be faced with, whether it’s on a personal level or these bigger environmental problems.
Q: Did you have to rush to accomplish your goal, or do you feel like the pace was right?
A: The basic schedule was dictated by Antarctica in summertime, so that’s November, December, and a little bit of January. We had a limited amount of supplies, but it wasn’t like we were racing to get to the South Pole. We were able to travel efficiently and make it there in 48 days. The North Pole was definitely a bit of a race to get out before the ice started melting. And then definitely on Everest, we were racing bad weather. But I’d been planning this trip for three and a half years, so I knew the windows of travelability in each of those places. That said, there was no guarantee I was going to make it, and there were a lot of obstacles in climbing Everest where I thought, “You know what, we probably aren’t gonna make this.”
Q: How did it feel when you actually did?
A: I was relieved, actually. And I didn’t feel totally relieved until I got down to base camp because, true, I got up, but there’s still getting down.