Walking to the North Pole

Above, a cloudless sapphire sky seemed to stretch endlessly over the space at the top of the world.

April is the time to travel to the North Pole. In April, there’s no sunrise or sunset and the ice is thick enough for a Twin Otter plane (equipped with skis) to land.

Many have flown over the North Pole, approached it by icebreaker or passed under it by submarine, but I flew with six travelers and two pilots to this isolated region with the intention of hiking from our plane and setting foot on the Pole. This was April 1991 and I was 72.

We started from Ellesmere Island, stopped at the magnetic North Pole, then continued on toward 90° North. From the air, our pilots saw rough spots that could indicate thin ice. They landed us as close as they safely could where the snow was fairly smooth — about a quarter mile from our goal.

“That way north!” the pilots pointed. They stayed with the plane, its engine running, as six of us tramped a circuitous route in the whipping wind and -68˚F temperature, avoiding icy leads and sometimes sinking up to our knees in the snow. My face mask froze to my cheek.

I marveled at the expanse of pristine whiteness underfoot and wondered how long it had been since other humans had floundered through it.

When we thought we had trudged far enough to reach the actual pole, I stood at the top of the world, immersed in beauty, and silently thanked its Maker.


Winchester, MA

Celia Puffer traveled with Arctic Odysseys [Seattle, WA; 800/574-3021, 206/325-1977, www. arcticodysseys.com]. In April 2007, the 5-day/4-night “North Pole Ultimate Adventure Flight” trip costs $12,995 from Longyearbyen, Norway.