Arctic Roundup: Will Steger Aborts

In our latest arctic roundup, Will Steger aborts his 1,600km Barren Lands expedition, and John Dunn and Graeme Magor make it to the northern tip of Axel Heiberg Island, then quickly spin around and head back south.

The Barren Lands

Will Steger’s second attempt at a 1,600km ski and canoe expedition across the Barren Lands has fizzled out, just like his first.

Steger first made camp on a small island on the Coppermine River on June 3. It is now June 11, and he is still there. He needs to cross to the western shore of the river but rapids have hemmed him in. Though the ice is thawing, he needs to wait for it to erode enough for a safe crossing. Yesterday, on day 42 of his journey, he decided that he should abort.

His latest update explains how he concluded that the crossing was too risky. He spent a lot of time studying the rapids and the ice break-up, eventually testing how he might cross. In a safe pool by the island, he kitted up and entered the water. However he quickly felt water seep into his dry suit and ultimately made the call that he couldn’t make it.

“I saw my death clearly in these icy waters. This experiment was the conclusion of a six-day life reality check where I got down and dirty with where risk ends. It ends with life and death and I choose life.”

He’ll likely have to wait five or six more days to get off the island and make it safely back to a pick-up point.

Axel Heiberg Island

John Dunn and Graeme Magor made the northern tip of Axel Heiberg Island last week on a cold, misty day. “Mindful of being a long way from home,” they have almost immediately set off south again, hugging the eastern coastline.

Dunn’s tracker shows the long slog back to complete their “double-Axel” expedition. Photo: John Dunn


They’ve been granted a sprinkling of sun, though they report that there is still almost 100% snow cover. However, the warmer temperatures have prompted them to off at 2 am. This keeps the sun behind them (the sun is due north at midnight) and to finish their day’s exertion before it gets too warm. The cooler nighttime temperatures make the snow cover firmer and better for skiing.

They estimate that the journey back to Axel Heiberg’s southern tip should take 25 days.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.