Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Valentines, Heat Exchangers and Hernan
Overcast, snowing and 25 degrees F.
17 February 2009 | Grand Marais, Minn.
I think for nearly my entire expedition in Antarctica, it was colder in Minnesota than the South Pole. That is until last week in Grand Marais when temperatures soared to nearly 40 degree F. Then it rained. Nice. But not really.

Needless to say, it was a less than opportune time for polar training with Hernan Maquieira team member for the South Pole leg of Save the Poles. Still, so much of expeditioning is improvising and we went out despite rain, warm temperatures and massive amounts of slushy lake ice.

This training was important for a number of reasons. Sure, it would have been great to have 20 below temperatures to better simulate Antarctica, but Hernan and I both know cold. During the 2007 Iditarod, Hernan mushed his dog team across the Yukon River when temperatures plummeted to 40 below. More important to us was to use the time to practice camp routines, expedition systems and simply spend time together.

You may argue that camping out and spending Valentine's night in the new Sierra Designs tent (the Big Kev - PT) might be stretching the week's objectives a bit, but I look at any night in a tent as a good one - despite the company and auspiciousness of the day.

During Hernan's visit, we also spent some time doing some male modeling. Wait, bare (bear?) with me here. Its not as weird as it sounds. I had asked my friend and photographer Bryan Hansel to help out with some sponsor images. I hate to admit, the shoot had a bit of a fake moon landing feel when we set up the Big Kev in my driveway and staked one end out to my KIA. The pictures on the other hand (one of Bryan's shots above) are amazing. If you're interested in seeing any other of Bryan's please visit his web site www.bryanhansel.com.

I was also pleased to receive a new cooking pot from Tami Fairweather at MSR. Not a big deal, one little pot (OK she actually sent two). However, this particular pot is just the right size - 4.5 liters, light weight and has an improved anodized coating. Hernan and I spent the better part of an afternoon Rube Goldbering a heat exchanger that after a bit of testing still needs some more work, but the theory is sound and should save us a considerable amount of fuel weight next fall.

In between all this Minnesota training, photography and gear , I was wondering about getting somewhere a bit more Arctic to train for the North Pole expedition next year. Then as so often seems to happen, chance and serendipity took over. I received an email from famed Polar Explorer Matty McNair who needed some help with a polar training class that she is teaching. It didn't take me long to reply. Next Monday: I'm heading to Baffin Island.

Should be fun...

And Cold.

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