Eric Larsen reaches summit and goal

Jane Howard

Eric Larsen had a busy—and chilly— year. On October 14, 2010, from 29,035 feet, he became the first person ever to reach the South Pole, North Pole, and summit of Mount Everest in a continuous 365-day period.

Called Save the Poles, Larsen’s mission is “to connect people with our last great frozen places and the environmental issues that are impacting them.” He hopes to use his expeditions to promote individual action and national legislation on climate change issues. The top, the bottom, and the “roof ” of the world—Mount Everest—are harsh, extreme, and inhospitable to humans, yet they are considered the areas most affected by people because of the impact of carbon in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

Larsen went up Mount Everest with state-of-the-art equipment from a host of corporate sponsors, an amazing array of technological gadgets that allowed him to stay in contact with the rest of the world, and the expert help of the local Sherpa guides.

Eric Larsen of Grand Marais has reached his lofty 2010 goal – to make it to the South Pole, and North Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest. Photos courtesy of Eric Larsen Eric Larsen of Grand Marais has reached his lofty 2010 goal – to make it to the South Pole, and North Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest. Photos courtesy of Eric Larsen Following are excerpts from Larsen’s Mount Everest blog:

September 2

“I’m reluctant to write more about my good luck with flying this year. All my flights in Antarctica and [the] Arctic were on schedule - a statistic so mindblowing to me that I am hesitant to talk further about it as I feel like it might suck all the luck out of my remaining years.”

September 4

“None of my previous expeditions have prepared me for my hike to Everest base camp. I have long since run out of adjectives to describe the grandeur and beauty of this place.”

September 9

“We are now above tree line and the landscape has become more alpine. Everything here is rock - houses, fences, walls, benches. It is incredible to think that each individual rock was dug, picked up, carried and placed solely by hand. These are not efforts of days and weeks but rather months and years.”

September 10

Larsen’s guide jokes that even the yaks get altitude sickness.

September 12

“Our views of Everest continue to be fleeting at best. The low-hanging clouds have only allowed two brief viewing windows. The mountain is impressive and daunting at the same time. Equally important, however, it provides a tangible goal to our efforts.”

September 16

Eric’s high-tech equipment and gear is working very well. He talks about altering and switching boot insoles, zipper pulls and backpacks.

“If it seems like I talk about gear and specific brands of gear a lot, you’re right. The type, style and quality of gear and equipment that I use is directly related to my ability to travel comfortably, efficiently, and here, directly connected to my ability to live and survive.

September 18

“It is quiet. If it weren’t for my heavy breathing, I could probably hear my heart beat, too. Every so often, we hear the low rumble of a nearby avalanche tumbling down one of the steep rocky slopes adjacent to the ice fall.”

September 22

“…Reporting from base camp... Again!? Expeditions are many things and one them is just plain and simply boring. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being here but right now we are at the mercy of the weather.

“The ‘boys,’ as [guide] Tshering calls our Sherpas, are a happy group. Two days ago, they were standing in a circle dancing to an Indian hip-hop song. All were giving it their full emotion and zeal, most especially Dawa, who is also a monk. I had to smile.

“I would say that I’m nervous, if I allowed myself to think like that. Fear, I have learned, is a useful tool for selfpreservation. However, it can also become a powerful inhibitor and limiter.

“The pace of camp life has slowed considerably. With day after day of weather delays, simple tasks have taken on a tortoise-like quality.”

September 23

“If nothing else, today is a big day as I plan to change my Terramar base layer and put on a new Looptworks T-shirt. Exciting day!”

October 2

“Someone braver than me might feel less fear. However, I have had to spend considerable energy managing my emotions.

“I wanted to describe a little bit about what it is like at altitude. …Each step usually requires a couple of breaths and any extra effort necessitates a full stop and recovery. Your muscles never really feel like they have power or energy. …A simple quick move can cause shortness of breath—and if you think about it too much—a suffocation-like feeling. I choose not to think about it too much.”

Larsen describes missing a falling ice pinnacle as he crosses crevasses on a ladder.

October 3

“Everest-style mountaineering is broken up into stages -- mostly for acclimatizing. It’s not all work, of course. I spent an hour in the late afternoon staring at the seams in my tent ceiling—a favorite expedition pastime of mine.

“At dinner Tshering and I talked about Everest, climbing and life. We went over our tentative plan for the next few days and then conversation spiraled into all sorts of topics. He asked if I thought I might take [a] shower soon. Not having bathed since I left Kathmandu, I said I would consider it, especially since I caught Tshering lighting incense at Camp 2 in our tent vestibule.

“‘For ceremony,’ he said.”

October 10

“With over 40 days since I left home and several weeks until I return, I am at that weird point in the expedition where all my other life starts to fade away. Whatever other existence I lived no longer has utility here. My hopes, dreams and future plans still exist; they are just tucked safely away. My attention is devoted to only this moment.

“My senses still have not dulled to the grandeur of this place. Each loud rumbling sends me racing outside the tent looking for the slow motion cascade of snow, ice and rock. Avalanches are as regular as clockwork here, yet their force continues to capture my attention. At night, I listen to the loud cracks and pops triangulating the sound to determine, in my mind, exactly which piece of ice is fracturing.”

October 13

“I honestly have no idea if I’ll be successful in my quest to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, but all that snow reminded me of the ultimate purpose of this expedition - to connect you to these places.

“I’m not sure what to think. I hesitate to discuss my confidence level for fear of making it drop even further. I am envious of the carefree attitude of the Sherpas -- they have been through all this before.”

October 14

“It’s a good thing my mom isn’t here watching me climb. This is definitely not the safest thing I have ever done.”

Larsen reaches the summit on this day, three weeks earlier than expected, and talks about it in his blog several days later:

October 17

“We climbed for several hours in the dark and cold. Thewind had died considerably and it was crystal clear. I have been in many remote places and seen amazing night skies, but never have I seen stars below me.”

October 18

Larsen’s group nears the summit as the sun begins to rise.

“We were treated to a spectacular scene and I watched the entire valley begin to unfold. Everywhere I looked there were different mountains and valleys to investigate. October 21

Locals greet and congratulate the Sherpas when they return.

“In the evening Tshering and I had dinner together and talked about the climb and the team. With no more pressure to climb, we had a thorough debrief and evaluated the decisions that were made.” They talked about the mission of Save the Poles and agreed that they felt good about being part of something bigger than themselves.

“Later, we joked about our cultural differences and personality quirks. We also talked about the types of people who have climbed Everest and some of [the] people Tshering has worked with in the past. I confessed that while I had taken a shower in base camp, I didn’t have any soap.

“Laughing, Tshering finally added, ‘You are not like any other American I have ever worked with on Everest.’”

October 23

“It seems after receiving my certificate for climbing Mt. Everest that the tourism office thought to endow me with another special honor: I am now an official ambassador for Nepal Tourism Year 2011. I have absolutely no official duties whatsoever but I am taking the responsibility seriously and will hopefully be bringing a group to trek into base camp next fall.

“I am not looking forward to saying goodbye. While I am excited to go home, my heart feels heavy. So much has happened in the past two months that I now consider Tshering and the boys friends more than anything. We share the combined experience of working hard to achieve an extreme goal, and the bond between us will always have that as a foundation.

“Still, there are many things that I am looking forward to. Seeing [girlfriend] Maria, a salad at Mad Greens, and being able to have a full-blown conversation in English. Can’t argue with Dorothy on this one: ‘There’s no place like home.’

“Of course, this is not really the end of anything but the beginning. The whole goal of the Save the Poles expedition was to connect people to these places and now is where the real work begins. My hope is to bring this story to as many audiences around the country as possible….”

October 27

“The odor from two months of unwashed Terramar base layer is overwhelming to say the least but I am fighting the battle with several cycles of Seventh Generation laundry detergent.”

November 8

“Today marks two weeks of being home from Everest and I have to say I am enjoying the dramatic reduction in stress as well as increase in comfort. But not everything is 100% peaches and cream. Ending an expedition brings an unusual mix of melancholy and relief. On Everest, every single piece of my physical and mental energy was focused on survival, so now things like couches, showers and a nice dinner seem odd, and at times, trivial.

“Still, I have spent more of my life with a roof over my head than in a tent (although this past year it’s about equal) so being home is also a somewhat normal transition. The post-expedition ‘funk’ is nothing new and I have felt this same way many times before. In another week or so I should begin feeling a bit more ‘normal’. However, Everest and the Poles will always be with me and every event from here on out will be looked at through the filter of those experiences.”

When he’s not traveling, Larsen splits his time between Grand Marais and Boulder, Colorado. His blog can be found online at

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