Record-setting adventurer to speak in Eagle County
A couple months ago, Eric Larsen basked in the view from the summit of Mt. Everest, the first person in history to reach the South Pole, North Pole and Mt. Everest in a 365-day period.
Larsen has been everywhere, done everything. He’s an educator and storyteller, trying to connect people to places and issues.
He’ll be in the valley today for two appearances, sharing the view and the adventure. Optic Nerve, a local company, was the lead eyewear equipment sponsor for Larsen’s expeditions.
If you’re Larsen, you talk about how you’ve seen climate change alter the landscape of the planet’s last great frozen places, and how we have the power to affect positive change.
And, man, does he have some stories!
“No one has ever done it in a year, and only 15 other people have done it at all,” Larsen said. “On Everest, I was actually more surprised than anything that I had made it that far.
“I thought of all the things that could have gone wrong not only on the actual expeditions, but also during the years of planning and preparations.”
Larsen admitted that during the treks, it might have crossed his mind that he might not make it, and that it might not be worth it.
He did, and it was.
“During my nearly six months in a tent this past year – living and traveling in the most extreme environments on our planet – it crossed my mind nearly every day that it really wasn’t worth all the hardship and stress,” Larsen said. “There are so many times on an expedition when you are cold, scared, overwhelmed, exhausted.”
But the mission remained, Larsen said: Connect people to these places, showing them how they are changing and how they can protect them.
In 2006, Larsen and Lonnie Dupre completed the first ever summer expedition to the North Pole. They pulled and paddled specially modified canoes across 550 miles of shifting sea ice and open ocean.
The Arctic Ocean is ice floating on water and with the warming climate there is more water and less ice, Larsen said.
“On that 2006 trip we saw the thinness of the ice and the growing amount of open water,” Larsen said.
On this trip, Larsen and his team had been on their first leg, to the South Pole, for two weeks and they’d lost tents, tent poles, all kinds of gear they needed to survive.
“This environment just destroys everything,” Larsen said.
Antarctica is the windiest place on earth, but while he was marching to the South Pole they went two weeks with no wind.
The North Pole, the second leg, was as relatively sane as a trek can be, when it’s through 700 miles of frozen wilderness that will make every possible attempt to kill you.
Mount Everest is often considered the third pole in the expedition world. As the last leg of his journey he and his Sherpa team climbed Mount Everest in the fall, which few people do. Most Everest assaults are launched in the spring.
“At base camp in the spring there are 1,000 people there. Last fall there was only our small team,” Larsen said. “A Japanese team gave up and left, then it was just us.”
No one had summitted Everest in the fall for several years and Larsen was the only westerner in his party. It was a huge deal for his Sherpa team.
“Usually, it’s the westerners who get the attention, but this time it was all about them as we were descending, people congratulating them and buying them beers.”
From Mount Everest, you can see everything, including evidence that the mountain’s glaciers are retreating dramatically, Larsen said.
But you don’t have to climb Everest or hike the poles to see for yourself, he said.
“There’s evidence everywhere we go,” Larsen said.
Larsen grew up in Wisconsin and lives most of the year in Minnesota, so he knows about cold.
“As someone who really likes the cold and cold places, climate change is something important to talk about,” he said.
But it’s time to stop talking and start doing, Larsen said.
“The evidence has been around for decades,” he said. “Saving the planet can also save you some money. Energy efficiency and conservation is one of the more important things we can do.”
Throw mass transit, and efficient and renewable energy into the mix, and you’re closing in on an economically viable solution, he said.
“We need to come together to make sure those things are happening,” Larsen said.
Outside Magazine named him one of its “Eco All Stars” in 2008. He was also inducted as a member of the Explorer’s Club based in New York City. He talks to schools, corporate groups, nature centers … anyone who’ll listen.
Larsen’s working on a book and a documentary film about it all.
“The next project is out there, but I consider myself more of a storyteller,” he said.