Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters are on the home stretch on their journey to the North Pole. Over the weekend, they were pushing the pace a bit more in an effort to reach the top of the world before they run out of food, and as such they have been putting in some very long days. But, as the new week begins, they are now poised to become the first team in four years to complete a full-distance expedition to Pole, although even in these final stages, the Arctic is finding ways to test them.
As of this writing, the boys are now 21.8 miles (35 km) from the finish line. That represents a hard day of skiing today, and tomorrow. Their current schedule has them skiing for six hours straight, then taking a break, resting, having a meal, and spending some time in the tent, before setting off again for another six hours. It's a fairly grueling pace when you've been on the ice for 50+ days, but they are determined to finish on schedule, and knowing that they are almost done is providing encouragement down the stretch.
Before they reach 90ºN however, there are some challenges to overcome. For starters, the weather forecasts say that a storm is moving into the area, which could impact their ability to travel, or potential get retrieved from the ice. That means they just might reach the Pole, only to discover no one can come pick them up, and return them to civilization. Worse yet, according to ExWeb, they've been warned about a large open lead that is in their line of travel, which they'll have to navigate around, or swim across, in order to reach their goal. It could be very frustrating to know that they are closing in on the end, but instead of being able to go north, they'll have to travel several miles east or west, before they can make the turn.
As if those weren't big enough concerns for the two explorers, they've also spotted the fresh tracks of a rather large polar bear that is on the same route as they are taking. That means a potential encounter with the animal within shouting distance of the Pole itself. Polar bears are wandering further and further afield these days in search of food. Lets hope this one isn't hungry enough to go looking for humans. Better yet, lets hope Ryan and Eric don't bump into the bear at all.
If everything goes as scheduled, the next update should be about the duo checking in from the North Pole. If they continue the pace that they've been setting over the past week or so, they should reach that point sometime tomorrow. We'll just have to wait for the update to come to know for sure. I will post the news as soon as it happens.