Will Steger Finishes First 500Km of Arctic Journey

Legendary polar adventurer Will Steger’s latest expedition is going swimmingly, according to his regular audio dispatches. The 78-year-old reached Great Bear Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories on May 20. He has skied and rafted 500km from his starting point on Kamut Lake. His total route stretches 1,300km.

Steger's route map


“Got out into the big lake today. Kind of felt like a ship leaving the safety of a harbor,” Steger said in his update for day 33. “And it is like an ocean horizon here…it’s huge, you can’t see the other side.”

Great Bear Lake is North America’s fourth-largest lake, and it’s currently frozen over. Steger is using the relative flatness to enjoy “90 percent good hauling” and easy camp setups, he noted in the log.

Steger also took the opportunity to educate his listeners on the mechanisms behind the ice breakup on a lake as grand as Great Bear. At 31,153 square kilometers, only seven lakes in the world are larger.

The first phase of the breakup entails water from the inlet rivers covering the surface of the ice. This surface water gradually drains down through cracks. This action eventually weakens the ice enough for fracturing to begin in earnest.

Traveling on the lake during the melt can be difficult. In his 2022 expedition, Steger often encountered shin-deep water on the ice. On this go-round, he timed his journey across the lake to coincide with the period between the water drainage and a full breakup.

“I think it’s going to be some time before [the breakup] gets into the more serious, dangerous mode,” he said.

River travel

Steger still has plenty of expedition left to go. From his current location, he’ll head to the far west end of the lake before turning north once again along the Blood and Haldane Rivers.

“The crux of this route will be making it to [the Horton River] headwaters before breakup. I may have to wait out breakup there and then descend the Horton 400 miles by raft. Near the Arctic Ocean I will hike overland 100-plus miles to get to the Inuit village of Paulatuk, arriving mid to late June,” he wrote before embarking last month.

a satellite screenshot

Steger’s location on May 22. He’s currently skiing along the northern coastline of Great Bear Lake. Screenshot: Will Steger


This expedition marks Steger’s third solo attempt through northwest Canada. This time around, he’s swapped out a canoe for a lighter packraft. The change seems effective; Steger is on track for a successful expedition. Though as he noted on the Steger Center’s website, success doesn’t necessarily mean completion.

“My goals are simple. First and foremost is to come back home safely. What gives my expedition substance is my ability to share these adventures.”

You can follow Steger’s updates on the Steger Center’s Facebook page or website.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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