Skiing to the North Pole: The Top 7 Questions

Erik Boomer
Human Rights

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is a diplomat turned activist. To raise awareness for survivors of sexual child abuse, she will be setting out for an expedition to the North Pole in April 2019 and to the South Pole in December 2019. Here, Eirliani is documenting her inner and outer struggles as she is preparing for these trips.

This is Part 13 of Eirliani’s personal leadership journey.

I get asked many questions about my upcoming expedition to the North Pole, taking place on 15–24 April 2019.

These are the seven most popular ones.

Eirliani Abdul RahmanNGO Yakin

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is preparing for a last-degree trip to the North Pole in April 2019 and a 700-mile ski trip to the South Pole in December 2019 to raise awareness for child sexual abuse survivors. She is the co-founder of YAKIN (Youth, Adult Survivors & Kin In Need), an NGO working on children’s rights and child protection, and a member of Twitter’s Safety & Trust Council. She serves as director at the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation and is a member of the Global Diplomacy Lab. In 2015, she led a successful campaign of the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (“Save the Childhood Movement”) founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi called #FullStop to #childsexualabuse in India, which reached 16 million people over 6 weeks. Eirliani is co-author of the book “Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse.” She won the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award in 2015.

1. What’s the distance and how long will it take?

I’m skiing the last degree to the North Pole, which means I’ll get dropped off at the 89th degree of latitude. The distance to the North Pole is 60 nautical miles as the crow flies, which translates to 69 miles or approximately 111 km. However, the actual distance could be as long as 100 miles, depending on the route we take.

There’s pressure ridges which look like giant ice blocks, formed by ice floes colliding with each other, and open leads which are narrow, linear cracks in the ice that form when ice floes diverge or shear as they move parallel to each other. We will have to cross the leads where they are narrow and haul our sleds containing our food, tent and gear over the pressure ridges.


2. Where are you starting from?

I’m flying to Svalbard Island which is a part of Norway and is off the continent of Europe. We’ll be taking a chartered plane to the Russian ice camp called Barneo. It floats and so is always on the move!


3. Who’s on your team?

There’s 7 of us, including one other woman and 2 guides, one female and one male. I’ve not met them before but have been talking to the female guide, who also heads the expedition company, for several months now.

4. What will you eat?

It will be oats and hot chocolate for breakfast, and noodle soup, chocolates and cheeses for lunch. We will have about 4 breaks during the day, skiing from about 9am to 5pm every day, and lunch and these snacks will be taken during these short breaks while sitting on our respective sleds on the open ice.

Dinner is a dine-in affair, nothing too elaborate, to be cooked in the tent, and will comprise dehydrated food products, usually pasta or rice.


5. Will you melt snow for drinking?

Yes. However, pure snow on its own will burn and produce an unpleasant taste, so I always put in water from a thermos flask and then add in huge chunks of snow. Before settling in for the night and cooking, we shovel snow into a waterproof bag and place it in one of the vestibules of the tent for easy access.


6. Are you nervous?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t! However, I feel good about the training I’ve done thus far. In April 2018, I skied 63 miles, circumnavigating the frozen Frobisher Bay off Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic in 5 days while pulling 190 lbs (87 kg) worth of food and gear behind me. I trained in March 2017 and April 2018 with Matty McNair and Sarah McNair-Landry, well-known polar explorers and a mother-and-daughter team, as well as Erik Boomer, Sarah’s partner and a famous adventurer in his own right. Matty, the mother, still holds the world record for the fastest ski to the North Pole and back: an amazing 36 days!

7. What about polar bears?

We will have a rifle and flares to scare them off. We will do our very best to avoid them.

I’ll be announcing a blog that you can follow for a daily update while I’m on the expedition proper.

See you on the other side!

Previously in this series: Surviving Polar Bears and Other Small Things

Coming up next: The story about Eirliani’s expedition to the Arctic.

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