Will Steger, 78, Completes 1,300km Arctic Crossing

Will Steger “survived it again,” he said this week.

After a lifetime of adventure in the frigid wilds, the 78-year-old explorer has pulled off another massive accomplishment: 1,300km through the Canadian Arctic, solo.

“It’s been an incredible experience these last 55 days,” he said in his final audio report. “Some of the best experiences of my life: a lot of beauty, a lot of danger, a lot of in the moment all the time.”

The renowned polar traveler arrived in Canada’s Northwest Territories in mid-April, ready to tackle another months-long solo journey. This time, however, Steger intended to follow rivers “that will be either frozen, breaking up, or flowing.”

A map of Steger's completed route.

A map of Steger’s projected route. His modified, slightly shorter route continued west on Great Bear Lake instead of swinging north. Image: Steger Center


It’s a departure from the focus of his 2022 expedition, when Steger struggled to deal with shin-deep water on the ice, leading him to abort the trip.

This year, he traveled through the Arctic during one of its seasonal transitions, between the water drainage and a full breakup. He took three six-foot sleds and hauled a total load of 240lbs of supplies, Steger wrote earlier this year.

When he completed the first 500km a few weeks ago, Steger witnessed massive blocks of ice floating down the river near his campsite.

“It was just beyond anything I ever expected physically and spiritually, and you only get that by putting out 100% all the time,” he said on SoundCloud. “It’s really rare to stay in that moment for weeks at a time. It’s amazing what a human being is capable of.”

Return to the Steger Center

For Steger, the journey is part of his larger goal. Steger plans to open the Steger Center, his dream project in Ely, Minnesota.

The beautiful five-story building looks out over a beautiful Minnesota forest. When completed, Steger hopes the center will provide mentorship to other adventurers and environmentalists.

will steger

Will Steger. Photo: Steger Center


“It would lead to a center that nurtures community, cares for the earth, and inspires leaders to solve real-world problems,” the Steger Center website says. “With community spaces, master classes, and international leadership conferences, the Steger Center exists to build a sustainable community in the North Woods and inspire future generations of leaders.”

Despite just finishing an expedition that would represent a singular achievement for almost anyone else, Steger’s final audio dispatch showed a man ready to move on to the next challenge.

“I’m ready to return to work at Steger Center,” he said. “The effort of my lifetime has been the Steger Center. Everything I’ve done was a means to an end to launch that legacy.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.