When I first mount the bicycle—a sturdy Rocky Mountain Blizzard with 4.8-inch-wide tires—and push, I barely move. I grit my teeth, throw my weight onto the pedal, and the bike ekes forward. We power our way along Polar Bear Point among glistening, 6-foot-thick ice caps and sunning ringed seals. After a short time, my legs wobble like jelly.
Photo courtesy: Ashlea Halpern for WIRED
It took five flights to reach the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge on Canada's Somerset Island, roughly 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The lodge's eight-week season begins in June, just as the pack ice that blankets the Northwest Passage begins to fissure and melt. But the family that runs the place is at home in the desolation. The patriarch, Richard Weber, is the world's most traveled North Pole explorer. His wife, Josée Auclair, has led women's expeditions to both poles. And in 2010, their then 20-year-old son, Tessum, became the youngest person ever to trek to the North Pole. Under their watch last year, I kayaked through glacial canyons, piloted an ATV across the tundra, and (politely) stalked a herd of muskoxen. But nothing compared to the rush of riding a fat bike over a frothy expanse of white snow and meth-blue ice, the cold air bringing tears to my eyes.