The North Pole: A Psychological Entity

Curtis Lieber shares the best and worst experiences he's had guiding expeditions to the North Pole.
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Frozen Tundra, Arctic
The North Pole, in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, encompasses a harsh frozen landscape of snow and ice above 14,000 feet of water  (Photodisc)
North Pole Screensaver
Click here to check out more photos from Lieber's North Pole expeditions.
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"I was addicted to the North Pole after my first trip," says Curtis Lieber, president, founder, and lead guide for Global Expedition Adventures (www.north-pole-expeditions.com), who has been leading trips to the North Pole for over ten years. "It was an adrenaline rush. I had to go…had to go. I weighed the risk of losing a fiancé and I lost her, for going. I went and that was it."

You may not have the exact same reaction as Lieber, but the North Pole is undoubtedly one of the globe's last, utterly awe-inspiring frontiers, and he's explored it in almost every way imaginable, from skiing expeditions to hot-air balloons. He even came up with the North Pole Marathon. The Away Network's ERIKA LLOYD chats with Lieber about his best and worst moments at the top of the world.

Away: How did you get your start in the adventure expedition industry?
Lieber: I was a physician's assistant in a clinic. A fellow came into my clinic and, while I was sticking a needle in his knee, said that he was planning to fly a hot-air balloon over Victoria Falls, South Africa. He asked me to be his medic, and said he'd pay my way. I said yeah, I would. He didn't call me back until about six months later, when he called and asked if I was still interested and I said, "Yeah, I've got my mosquito net and I'm ready to go."

He said that it was going to be a little different, and when I asked how, he explained, "We changed plans, and we're going to fly a hot-air balloon over the North Pole."

So, in 1997 we flew a hot-air balloon over the North Pole in commemoration of Solomon Andree, an adventurer who flew a gas balloon from Svalbard, the island north of Norway, in 1897. He made it just short of the North Pole, but died from ingesting polar bear meat with trichinosis in it.

When we returned from this trip, someone reported that we missed the North Pole by 500 feet, because the wind blew us aside. So, we did it again in 1998, and this time we flew the balloon over with a global positioning system. That year the guy I traveled with said he couldn't pay my way, so I developed my company and brought some people along, which paid my way. That was the beginning of my company. I've gone every year since.

What kinds of trips do you organize?
I organize a general one-day champagne tour for people who want to kiss the North Pole and come back; a three-day trip where visitors spend time at the drifting ice base; and three-, five-, seven-, or nine-day ski trips. I also organize trans-arctic ski trips from Russia to the North Pole, Russia to Canada, Canada to the North Pole, and Canada to Russia.

Over the past ten years, we have flown hot-air balloons over the North Pole; I've had a hot-air balloon regatta up there, where we flew five or six hot-air balloons around; we have scuba-dived under the ice; we have skied to it. I've also brought sky divers up there every year.

Published: 27 Sep 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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