Finally a proper winter throwback. This one is from 16 years ago. My buddy Sam Salwei came up with a crazy idea - snow-kite across the entire state of North Dakota in the dead of winter. Unsupported. All to promote a burgeoning wind turbine industry. I didn't know what snow-kiting was, but I learned and we tried. We built a movement. We almost froze. We almost died.
In 2007 we made it 300 miles or so before we ran out of snow when the temps went from -40 to 40 overnight. The next winter I opted for warmer climes and headed to climb in Thailand - but a charismatic call from Sam brought me back. I disembarked the airplane in Fargo wearing flip flops and t-shirt. The next day I was in ski boots at the Canadian border. We were joined by a third this time - a young vagabond by the name of Paul Cassedy. The second attempt was also marred by disaster. Sam dislocated his shoulder on the ice of the massive Lake Sakakwea. Paul helped him to the hospital, while I carried on alone - across the ice. The wind that day was so strong I kept my kite in my pack and simply held out my arms and blew downwind at 15 mph. I covered 70 miles in an afternoon - so utterly alone.
The snow ran out this second year too, but a local who was following us on the news welded together a couple of brakeless three wheel buggies. Someone else brought us a longboard (oversize skateboard). Sam and I used wind to kite the buggies while Paul hung onto a tow strap and was pulled behind us.
Days later we reached the South Dakota border. It was one of the only times in my adventure career where I really felt an inkling of true exploration. But damn it was cold, and touch and go every day.
Bonus, we had a great crew holding town meetings about wind energy along the route, teaching snow-kiting to kids in all the native villages, and in general just building community awareness of our mission. Outside Magazine covered it, as did the national news. We slacklined on barbed wire. Slept on bare ice. Cried some. And didn't lose any toes.
I call that a win.