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2012 nominees include Ellesmere, Everest paddling expeditions

National Geographic just released its annual Adventurer of the Year nominees. And, drumroll, please, it was no surprise that two of paddling’s hardest, and most ambitious expeditions from the last year accounted for two of the 10 nominated adventures. True, all the nominees are impressive athletes that fulfill the selection criteria for “extraordinary achievement in exploration, conservation, and adventure sports.” But a street trials freestyle bike rider who travels in an RV setting up stunts? Give these paddlers the recognition they deserve. Click HERE to cast your vote for Jon Turk and Erik Boomer’s bold, 104-day, 1,495-statute-mile circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, or Sanu Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa’s tandem paragliding flight off Mount Everest and ensuing paddle down the Ganges River to the Indian Ocean.

Click HERE to read the story of Babu and Lakpa’s wild ride, or pick up the story in the December issue of Canoe & Kayak, available on newsstands now. Here is the trailer for the film, Hanuman Airlines, that recounts the Nepalese duo’s unprecedented journey.

The following story is featured in the December issue of Canoe & Kayak, available on newsstands now. CLICK HERE to see our exclusive photo gallery from the trip and links to our ongoing coverage of Turk and Boomer’s expedition.

Ellesmere Island:

Hard on Gear, Hard on Bodies

By Jon Turk

I was floating in a morphine haze, so the nurse seemed far away, even though she was just across the room, talking on the phone. I struggled to process the phrase “life threatening” which she kept repeating, and then I became lucid.

“Hey, Wendy, am I going to die?”

This spring and summer, Erik Boomer and I set out to complete the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere, a 1,500-mile trek by ski and kayak around the 10th largest island in the world. It is one of the closest points of land to the North Pole, and according to the New York Times, has “the highest misery-per-visitor ratio in the world.” Arctic historian Jerry Kobalenko called our expedition “the hardest polar trek done in years.”

And now we were finished; we did it. Just two days earlier, we had paddled into Grise Fiord, the only civilian settlement on the island, on a dead calm sea, reflective in its serenity. One hundred and four days before that, in early May, we had left Grise Fiord, skiing westward under continuous sunlight, over ice and frozen pressure ridges, sculpted smooth with windblown snow.

We celebrated for a day and a half, eating potatoes and carrots, chips and salsa, and waiting for a flight southward toward grass and trees, girlfriends and wives. And then, relieved of the adrenalized necessity to survive, my body told itself, “You’re done; you don’t have to do this any more. You don’t have to do anything anymore.” So it turned itself off. Metabolic shutdown.

Yeah, my body hung in there until it didn’t need to hang on anymore, and quit only when quitting was permitted&mdashmuch like Boomer’s skis. When they first cracked, he moved the bindings forward, off the balance point, and kept going. Then they cracked again, so he moved the bindings back. As bits and pieces of Boomer’s skis broke off, they shortened and shortened again. But they kept bearing his weight, and finally failed catastrophically on the same day the summer sun finally melted the snow and skis became superfluous.

It’s assumed that your body and gear will break down on a polar expedition. The difference between success and failure is whether everything hangs on by a thread until the job is done. This is the gear I carried, and that carried me, for 108 days.

— INSIDE TURK’S KIT —

Apparel for skiing/walking: Eddie Bauer First Ascent BC 200 Jacket, Rainier StormShell Pants and Polartec baselayers.

Kayaks: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 135. WindPaddle sails.

Paddles: Adventure Technology (AT) bent-shaft carbon whitewater paddles. (We chose whitewater paddles for the additional durability, necessary for paddling in heavy ice.)

Paddling outerwear: Kokatat TecTour Anorak with Eddie Bauer pants and NRS Storm Boots.

Communications: Iridium 9555 Global Satellite Phone.

Drybags: Watershed Drybags for deck-rigged gear and NRS Ricksack Dry Bag for food, gear stowed in the hatches.

Camp setup: Eddie Bauer First Ascent prototype tent. The North Face Cat’s Meow sleeping bag. MSR XGK stove and Alpine two-pot set cookware.
Medevac air lift: Global Rescue (globalrescue.com).

Stay tuned for our upcoming “North Issue” in May, 2012, including Jon Turk’s feature-length account of the
Ellesmere expedition, with photographs by Erik Boomer.

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  • RJ

    C&K wrote: “But a street trials freestyle bike rider who travels in an RV setting up stunts?”

    Well, Danny MacCaskill may not meet your definition of “adventurer”, if by that you mean you have to take a long trip across a vast wilderness. But if you’ve ever seen any of his videos, it is obvious this guy is not just doing stunts on a bike. His riding constitutes adventure in every sense of the word and involves just as much risk as any paddling trip on a raging river.

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