Will Steger to cross the Barren Lands solo at 73

For 50 years, Will Steger has travelled by dogsled, kayak and on foot across the world’s polar regions. Now, at the age of 73, he will take on his biggest solo expedition yet: 1,000 miles and 70 days across the Barren Lands of the Canadian Arctic. ”

A titan in the field of polar exploration and a prominent spokesperson in the battle against climate change, Will Steger has never been one to shy away from a challenge. With a resumé that includes the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole (without a resupply) in 1986, a 1,600-mile traverse of Greenland in 1988, and a colossal 3,471-mile dogsled crossing of Antarctica in 1989-1990, you could be forgiven for thinking that he might stick to climate change advocacy as he enters his twilight years. Instead, he is embarking on his biggest solo trek to date.

On March 21, Steger will set out from the Chipewyan village of Black Lake in remote northern Saskatchewan. His destination lies some 1,000 miles northeast, at the Inuit community of Baker Lake, Nunavut. Spanning the two settlements are the Barren Lands, an area of the Canadian Arctic famed for its brutal winds and lack of human habitation. Steger can expect winds up to 70mph. Coupled with the subarctic cold, the region produced a record windchill for Canada of -134oF back in 1975.

Steger traversed this area on previous expeditions in the 1980s, but this time there will be an added complication: He has consciously chosen to begin the journey during the breakup season, as the Barren Land rivers transition from winter to spring. In the warming temperatures, patches of open water around rapids could slow him down or force detours.

Speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Steger explained that he won’t set hard daily mileage targets. In good conditions – stable ice, windblown snow, no headwind – he “could do 30 miles a day” but deep, soft snow or slush could slow him down for days. He admits that he used to have a fear of traveling rivers in winter, but skills he developed recently near his hometown of Ely, Minnesota have given him the confidence to take on the Barren Lands.

The expedition is a staggering physical challenge for anyone. At 73, Steger will need to lean heavily on the endurance, knowledge and doggedness that he has developed over a lifetime of marathon adventures.

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Minnesota Star Tribune Story