In 2006, National Geographic Adventure wrote: "Børge Ousland is arguably the most accomplished polar explorer alive." Considering Børge Ousland (born 1962) has, by no means, stopped exploring or challenging the elements, the quote is still highly accurate.
For more than 30 years Børge has made groundbreaking expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica, expeditions that have stretched the boundaries of what was once thought possible. He made history's first solo expedition to the North Pole with no supplies and was the first to cross Antarctica alone. To this day, he is the only person to have accomplished both achievements.
In 2010, Børge and Vincent Colliard sailed through the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in just 25 days. 100 years earlier it took Roald Amundsen almost three years to complete the same passage. Higher temperatures and less ice have made the trip much quicker since then. Afterward, they started the “Ice Legacy project” together; a project where they will cross the world's largest ice caps in the next decade. The goal is to explore, document and shed light on global warming and its impact on polar areas.
“In the fall of 2019, Mike Horn and I will try to cross the North Pole,” says Børge. “We are sailing from Nome in Alaska at the end of August and the plan is to get over on to the drift ice when it is at a minimum in mid-September. From there we are going to ski to the North Pole and further on towards Svalbard. Meanwhile, the boat sails through the Northeast Passage. At the ice edge north of Svalbard we are picked up by the same boat. If everything goes according to plan, this will be a groundbreaking trip, not unlike what Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen tried in their time.”
With over 30 years of experience, there have been some improvements to how Børge conducts an expedition since his first crossing of Greenland in 1986. However some things never change.
“There have been major changes, especially in terms of communication and navigation, but also related to a lot of the equipment. It has become lighter and stronger, and the features have improved. But something doesn't change, for example, I still always wear wool.”
For Helsport, Børge is an incredible resource. We are proud that our tents and sleeping bags have followed Børge on several of the greatest polar expeditions in history. Børge has been a very important partner for us ever since we joined him on his first expedition to Greenland in 1986. He tests equipment under extreme conditions over a long period of time, and with his unique experience over many years he has contributed a lot to the development of our products.
“Helsport has been with me for so long that I almost feel like they are part of the family. I have also had the pleasure of doing some product development together with Helsport, and it is inspiring when a company wants to improve and listen to the experiences and feedback the users give them.”
Any experiences to draw from, it can be challenging to recall one particular special moment he will never forget.
“There are so many exciting experiences that it is difficult to choose, but few things beat the feeling I had when I was on the North Pole after my first solo trip in 1994. When out on adventures, it is important to be present in the moment here and now, pay attention to the details and what is happening around you and reflect on it.”
When faced with an experienced polar explorer like Børge, it is tempting to ask about the roughest trips, the toughest decisions, the most dangerous crossings and the most outrageous experiences. But since most of us never push ourselves that far, we need advice and tips for low-threshold trips.
“If you are a beginner, start with something you like to do, at a level you feel comfortable with and push the boundaries gradually. Eventually, you’ll get more experience and complete expeditions you previously thought were impossible....
“If you are a beginner, start with something you like to do, at a level you feel comfortable with and push the boundaries gradually. Eventually, you’ll get more experience and complete expeditions you previously thought were impossible. I’d also suggest you join a professional course. I took a glacier course just a few years ago, a long time after crossing Antarctica alone, and learned lots of techniques I didn’t know previously.”
An old Norwegian Mountain Code states: Listen to people with experience.
Listen to Børge: you learn as long as you live.