February 26, 2010

Preparation, challenge: skiing to the North Pole

DEIRDRE FLEMING

— By

Staff Writer

Tyler Fish and friend John Huston finished their historic 500-mile Nordic ski journey across the North Pole last April, but Fish is still wondering why they embarked on the rigorous odyssey.

The two men became the first Americans to complete a human-powered, unassisted Nordic ski journey across the North Pole. Fish, an alumni of Bates College and a Minnesotan, will be in Lewiston to retell his amazing journey as part of the 90th anniversary celebration of the Bates Outing Club on Saturday.

A 1996 Bates graduate, Fish credits his experience in the Bates Outing Club for fostering his adventurous spirit.

''Life is largely made up of people you meet and opportunities you choose to take,'' said Fish from Minnesota. ''One of the things that helped me for sure is the Bates education that taught me that it takes a lot of hard work to do something well.''

The challenges of traversing the Arctic circle on skis and unsupported were many, from planning for safety to preparing physically. To train, the two men pulled tires, biked and skied, and improved their already seasoned wilderness skills. Largely, they had to come up with different ways of living in the wilderness, said Fish, an administrator for Outdoor Bound in Ely, Minn.

''One of our slogans was that the preparation is the expedition, not just physically but in other ways,'' Fish said.

Both pulled 300 pounds of gear in sleds. They didn't know what to expect. And though they were alone -- it was a race.

They started on March 2 before the sun rose over the Arctic Ocean, taking the earliest flight available. They had to begin before spring arrived in full force and warmer temperatures broke up the ice that was their route.

The two men needed to get to the North Pole in less than 60 days to catch a flight out of a research station set up by Russian scientists.

They met their deadline, finishing on April 25.

''Without spilling too much of the story, we only slept three hours in the last 66 hours. If we didn't get there, the next flight would cost $135,000,'' Fish said, referring to the cost of commissioning a Canadian plane.

Despite the success of their journey, Fish said he still wonders why the two men took time out of their lives to achieve it.

''That is the big question. The answer is simple: John and I really like to challenge ourselves,'' said Fish, 36.

At the moment, the two are working on a book they will try to sell to a publisher, and are considering their next adventure.

Only one thing is certain nine months after their arrival at the North Pole: The 500-mile odyssey deepened their friendship.

''We're better friends now than we were before. It's a good testament to how we went about it,'' Fish said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

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