Explorer on mission to save planet's last frozen places

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The prospect of encountering polar bears, cracking ice and frostbite doesn't horrify Arctic explorer Eric Larsen.

Neither does going nearly 60 days without a shower.

Putting up with team members who chew with their mouths open?

That's a hardship he doesn't want to handle when he attempts to ski to the North and South Poles and climb Mount Everest -- all within 365 days.

Larsen says the trio of endeavors has never been accomplished in one year. To improve his chances of success he's assembled a crack crew: explorers who won't wither in whiteouts, won't panic if they fall through thin ice into bone-chilling water, won't munch too loudly on energy bars.

"Imagine 60 days with somebody who chews with their mouth open or snores," Larsen said, smiling. "When you're stuck in a tent, scared, hungry and cold, it's easy to see the bad side come out."

Larsen's adventure will begin when he heads for the South Pole with Hernan Maquieira in November 2009. Next up will be the North Pole with Darcy St. Laurent, Mark Wood and Lisa Strom.

For the Mount Everest excursion, he's enlisted Aron Ralston, the mountaineer renowned for amputating his right arm with a dull blade in 2003 after it was pinned by a half-ton boulder at the bottom of a canyon in Utah.

Ralston said that ordeal has made him a more focused climber -- and person.

"This trauma has turned into such a blessing for me in my life," said Ralston, who gives motivational speeches between rafting trips and climbing expeditions. "It's been the biggest miracle of my life. It's the transformation of my life -- from being this fun-seeking kid in my 20s, my life and happiness all built around my self-centered desires. Now, my fulfillment comes from causes."

Larsen's undertaking fits that description. He wants to raise awareness of global warming and the effects it's having on melting ice caps.

His motto? Think snow.

His mission? Saving the last frozen places left on the planet.

Larsen isn't content with just trekking to the world's top, bottom and highest summit. He wants to film and blog about every frozen step. Putting his plan in motion will cost nearly $750,000, and Larsen said he is still scrambling to find backing in a troubled economy.

"I feel like the job of an explorer in the 21st century is not going out to conquer these places but protecting them and telling a story," Larsen said. "They are going to be forever changed unless we act now."

To pass the lonely hours, Larsen will bring an iPod loaded with music like Modest Mouse, U2 and Death Cab for Cutie. He may even download some language lessons, learning Spanish along the way.

"Why not? I've got the time," he said.


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