Barneo May Reopen; Vincent Colliard Aims For North Pole

It is likely that the Barneo Ice Station will open this season for the first time since 2018.

The temporary camp around 100km from the North Pole has remained closed because of COVID and Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. While Barneo is now Swiss-owned, most of the workers who set up the station come from Russia.

Barneo open for 2023? Colliard hopes so

The station’s management team recently contacted stakeholders to say that they plan to open. Yet questions remain, and the final bits of bureaucracy are ongoing.

News that Barneo will reopen could spur a few expedition announcements. This week, French adventurer Vincent Colliard announced that he will attempt a solo, unsupported expedition to the Pole from the northern tip of Canada.

But Colliard remains unsure whether he’ll be able to proceed. He is currently preparing in Canada while waiting for official confirmation from Barneo. Recently, he arranged with Kenn Borek, the charter airline in Resolute Bay, to fly him to his start at Ward Hunt Island off northern Ellesmere Island if Barneo opens. From there, it’s 765km to the North Pole.

Twin Otter aircraft against snowy mountain

A ski-equipped Kenn Borek Twin Otter lifts off from Ellesmere Island. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


For about the last 10 years, the Kenn Borek company — which supported North Pole expeditions for many years — has been reluctant to commit to pickups at the North Pole or emergency pickups on the ice of the Arctic Ocean. This has made Barneo vital to North Pole hopefuls.

At the same time, the narrow window that Barneo is open means that would-be North Pole trekkers must finish much faster than they formerly had to, when a Borek Twin Otter sometimes landed on the ice well into May. Colliard has tentatively booked his flight for March 17. Cost from Resolute to Ward Hunt Island is a cool $60,000.

North Pole expedition garbage from earlier eras on Ward Hunt Island. Note the shark repellent. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


An endangered species

The last people to do a full-length expedition to the North Pole from land were guides Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters in 2014. Last-degree trips continued to be common until 2018, but North Pole expeditions themselves had become an endangered species, a victim of climate change, politics, and logistics.

Note that the 2014 trek doesn’t count Borge Ousland and Mike Horn’s journey across the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole in the fall of 2019, since they started well offshore. Their 1,557km Arctic Ocean epic took 87 days, with 57 of those in permanent darkness.

French adventurer Vincent Colliard. Photo: Christopher Michel


Colliard had the advice and experience of Ousland to draw from in preparing for this expedition. In September of last year, they crossed the ice cap on Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic. It was part of Ousland and Colliard’s long-term project to traverse the world’s 20 largest ice caps.

A waiting game

Colliard had initially planned this journey for 2022, but Barneo’s continued closure forced the delay.

Once again, the Arctic season hinges on complex geopolitics.

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 out in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.