Japanese explorer Yasunaga Ogita will make a second attempt at a grueling solo trek to the North Pole. And the nearly 800-km journey will be made all the more difficult since Ogita plans to hike through some of the world’s coldest and harshest terrain without any supplies other than what he alone can carry.
In 2014, Ogita will face a challenge that only two other people in the world have ever accomplished. Starting from the northernmost part of Canada in one of the most remote parts of the arctic territory of Nunavut, he will attempt to cover the 800-km distance to the North Pole in about 50 days. Ogita will travel along on the top of the world and will not have any access to supplies other than what he has packed himself. If he succeeds, he will be the first Japanese person to have completed the feat.
It goes without saying that reaching the North Pole on your own without backup is an extremely daunting challenge. Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland was reportedly the first to have done this in 1994, completing the trek in 52 days. The second person was British explorer Pen Hadow in 2003. Already a huge challenge, the recent climate change-fueled decrease in ice coverage will make the same expedition all the more dangerous.
Walking on sea ice
Since the North Pole has no land to speak of and is in the middle of the Arctic Sea, any trip there requires a good covering of sea ice. But as the earth is warming up, the melting ice sheets are getting thinner and creating an uncomfortably shaky trek. There are also fissures in the ice, called leads, that can cut off the main route to the North Pole. And when the ice sheets bump into one other, the ice can bunch up and cause mountain-like patches of ice, making the normally flat path very rocky.
These cracks and rough patches of ices are very hard to predict and when explorers come across these cracks in the ice, they only have two choices: swim across through frigid waters or find a detour. When Ogita attempted this challenge for the first time in 2012, he came across a lead so wide that he was forced to abandon his entire trek.
100 kg of supplies, 5,000 calories per day
Ogita’s only company on the expedition will be the 100 kg of supplies he will be carrying when he starts. There will not be any opportunities for resupplying, so he will have to carefully plan to make sure he is carrying just the right amount.
For the strenuous trek, Ogita is planning to consume about 5,000 calories per day. But even eating over twice the amount of calories an average male needs won’t prevent him from losing about 10 kg. When preparing his pack, he will have to delicately balance the weight of the food and the possibility of going hungry.
In the past 12 times he has been in the Arctic Circle, Ogita has encountered polar bears around 20 times and even had his tent attacked twice. He often downplays the dangers when talking to the public, but this he faces a huge number of extremely dangerous situations.
Ogita will be completely alone during the entirety of his 50-day trek to the North Pole with only the rare chance to talk to anyone through radio communications. He has told reporters that he expects to be able to endure the loneliness since he signed up for the challenge. But the real issue for Ogita is the fact that should he require any help, the nearest human will be 500 km away. In 2007 while on an expedition, he sustained serious burns on his hands when his tent caught on fire, but luckily he was with other explorers.
From Japan, he will fly to Vancouver and eventually make his way to Iqaluit, the territorial capital of Nunavut. From there, he will take another flight to the farther north Resolute Bay where he will take a chartered flight to Cape Discovery — the starting point for his solo trek. After reaching the North Pole, he will be flown back to Resolute Bay.
Ogita will start his training in February and begin the solo trek in March. If all goes as scheduled, he should reach his goal on April 20 and then be flown back to civilization. He will then become the first Japanese, and the third person ever, to have walked to the top of the world alone and without backup.
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