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Viesturs, Branson Join Global Warming 101
Adventure chats with premier alpinist Ed Viesturs about his upcoming dog-sledding endeavor on Baffin Island.

Text by Mary Anne Potts and George Quraishi  
Photograph courtesy Aaron Dowering, Global Warming 101

Photo: A dog-sledding team on Baffin Island

MUSH PUPPIES: In late February, polar explorer Will Steger and his team launched the first Global Warming 101 initiative—dog-sledding Baffin Island—to document how traditional Inuit ways are challenged by climate changes. In April, they will be joined by Ed Viesturs and Sir Richard Branson.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Expedition Dispatches:
On the Ice
With Ed

Starting April 17, hear Ed Viesturs's daily audio podcasts with Cisco Systems.

More >>

They sew parkas from sealskin. They mush to work. And whoever heard of an igloo plugged into the power grid? Traditional Inuit life is a model of carbon neutrality, yet the Inuit are the first witnesses of climate change, heralded by rising tides and receding ice. 

On February 25, revered polar explorer Will Steger launched the first of three Global Warming 101 educational initiatives in Arctic Canada. Steger and his team will be dog-sledding 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) across Baffin Island to learn how global trends render local changes and how the Inuit and their neighbors—polar bears and other Arctic creatures—are coping. (More on Global Warming 101 from National Geographic News >>)

With three Inuit hunters as cultural guides, the Baffin Island 2007 team will document life at the frontlines of global warming via daily dispatches, photos, and video on the Global Warming 101 Web site, as thousands of students track their progress.

For the last 300 miles (483 kilometers) of the journey, from mid-April to mid-May, adventure all-stars alpinist Ed Viesturs and Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and his 21-year-old son, Sam, will join the expedition.

Adventure caught up with Viesturs, an Arctic neophyte, to uncover why he chose mushing over mountains this spring.

Q:  You're the only U.S. citizen to stand atop the world's 14 tallest peaks. Why this shift to an expedition with an environmental theme?

Viesturs: To me, this is just as exciting as climbing mountains. I've always been interested in Arctic and Polar areas, and yet I've never been there. And to be an apprentice to someone like Will Steger, the master, that's exciting. This expedition has a great environmental message, so it's a slam dunk.

Q:  You're a trained veterinarian, but have you done any dog-sledding before?
Viesturs: Never. I'm going to be learning from the ground up. We'll be skiing alongside the dogs at a slow-jog pace. If the dogs start moving out, we'll just grab on to the sled. But maybe by the end of the trip Will will say, Ed, you get to steer the boat.

Q:  You'll be accompanied by Inuit guides?
Viesturs: We'll be traveling side-by-side with them. We'll have tents and the Inuit will be building igloos everyday. The idea is to compare and contrast the modern practices with the traditional Inuit lifestyle and methods. We want to find out what's it like now compared to 20 years ago.

Q:  What's it going to be like to be keeping pace alongside enviro-financier Sir Richard Branson?
Viesturs: Richard Branson, his son, and I are joining the expedition at Clyde River to finish the traverse. Everything is going to be kicked up a few notches because they are there—in terms of being safe and not taking risks. But he's an adventurer too, so he's not new to this.

Q:  Having led dozens of expeditions, is it a little strange to be taking a backseat as the rookie on this trip?
Viesturs: I think it is going to be cool. I've done so many trips over the past couple years where I was with equals or I was the leader. On this trip, I'm just going to do my work, keep my mouth shut, and contribute as much as I can.

Q:  What do you think is going to be your greatest challenge?
Viesturs: I know to take care of myself in rugged, cold environments. So I'll just have to see what I don't know. I think I'll do O.K., but I'm playing it down just in case they end up saying, Well we had to leave Ed behind … he started to cry. 

Follow the team's progress at

More on Ed Viesturs:

Hear an audio interview with Adventurer of the Year Ed Viesturs: Download it now >>

Best of Adventure 2006: Ed Viesturs was named the magazine's first Adventurer of the Year >>

There+Back: Ed Viesturs became the first American to climb all the world's 8,000-meter (26,248-foot) peaks when he summited Annapurna >>

Q+A: 8,000-Meter Man: Contributing Editor Michael Shnayerson profiles Ed Viesturs >>

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