Destination North Pole: Cos Cob resident part of expedition to the top of the world

Explorer, author and venture capitalist Luc Hardy, of Cos Cob, is off on another expedition -- one of his toughest physical challenges yet -- the Pax Arctica North Pole Expedition 2011. Hardy, 55, and his party of six will travel 150 miles by foot to the Pole from Barneo, the nearest Russian-operated base camp in the polar region.

"We are the dogs," Hardy said. "I will be pulling an 80-kilo, or 180-pound, sled attached with a rope to my waist for 8-10 miles a day for 15 days." All that on skis in temperatures that can range from zero to minus 40 or 50 degrees.

"The North Pole is mystical," added Hardy. "It's a romantic thing -- if you like adventure. There are few graphic markers at the Pole. There's nothing there. Everything appears almost meaningless, even though it is an important part of the world."

One member of Hardy's expedition is a 16-year-old teenager from France, Alexander Laurent. "He'll be serving as a youth ambassador," said Hardy, "alerting the public about critical environmentl issues endangering the Arctic, Laurent will also likely be the youngest ever to reach the North Pole, said Hardy. "He'll be walking and pulling his sled like us -- if we make it."

The group includes Laurent's father, Christophe, a couple of gung-ho New Yorkers, and is being led by a renown Polar guide, François "Ben" Bernard from Chamonix -- one of three mountaineers to have reached the summit of Mount Everest as well both the North and South Poles. "Ben has led groups for 20 seasons to the North Pole," said Hardy.

They can expect some tough going.

April is the month when the melting starts at the North Pole, presenting an added challenge to the expedition. "The ice is getting thinner and thinner and you have to be careful where you walk," said Hardy. "Sometimes the ice cracks and each side pushes upward making big hips of ice we have to cross. We will go up and over with our sleds. When the ice starts to break, we will go on a raft to cross the melted ice. The ice will be floating in different directions. It could be that you find yourself where you started."

During its expedition, the group will be observing and recording changes in the region, and interacting with scientists at work in the polar region. They may be called upon to help with installing equipment, assisting in collecting water/atmospheric samples, GPS measurements, and with photography and video, said Hardy.

Once the group reaches the unmarked Pole, they'll pitch their tent for one night -- it's currently daylight 24/7 -- to sleep on top of the world. Their return journey will be a bit easier. "The next day we call a Russian helicopter to pick us up," said Hardy.

Hardy is no stranger to cold climates. His passport reads Antarctica in 2003, Greenland in 2007, and the Arctic in 2008, with two books resulting: "Arctic Transitions" and "Greenland Impressions." He began his wanderlust, he said, in the mid 1980s with treks to Nepal and the Himalayas. In the early 2000s he became involved in environmental causes with Jean-Michael Cousteau, the son of Jacques Cousteau, and the Green Cross International organization. Green Cross is a partner in Hardy's current expedition, along with sponsor UFG-LFP, a Parisian asset management firm, and other "corporate and consumer brands." The balance of the trip's cost he said is coming out of the travelers' pockets.

"Unfortunate," Hardy said. "But the North Pole is priceless!"

However, according to Hardy, walking expeditions to the North Pole like this one will one day no longer be an option. "By 2050 it is predicted the Arctic will be ice-free in summer," said Hardy. "It will be just water on the top of the world."

Hardy will be blogging during his adventure. The website is: Start checking online April 8, he said.