Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mike Horn’s Arctic adventure is a study in courage and willpower

Mike Horn has been described as a modern-day adventurer who continuously tests the limits of human endurance. After reading his book, Conquering the Impossible, My 12,000 Mile Journey Around the Arctic Circle (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007), it’s hard to disagree.

On August 4, 2002, Horn set out from North Cape, Norway, in a custom sail boat and headed west towards Greenland. His solo journey around the Arctic Circle took him 27 months to complete. Conquering The Impossible is a gripping, first-person account of the many challenges and triumphs that he encountered along the way.

Throughout his trip, Horn battled severe windstorms, sub-zero temperatures (minus 98 degrees at one point), physical exhaustion, equipment failure, hypothermia, ice flows, polar bears, grizzly bears, Russian bureaucracy, complete darkness for weeks on end, and many other obstacles.

Horn’s willpower is almost unimaginable. He attacked problems with a rigorous determination and a stubborn refusal to give up. Whenever possible, he sought out the wisdom of native peoples in the north who knew the lay of the land. Every stage of his trip had to be planned with precision, to increase his odds of survival.

His food, provisions and equipment had to be hauled by sleigh, kayak and sailboat. To train for this type of hike around the Arctic Circle, Horn did a solo trek to the North Pole, which was cut short due to frostbite.
After reading Conquering the Impossible, it makes our own mental and physical exertions seem pale in comparison. At one point, after having hiked for an entire day through a storm, Horn realized that the wind was blowing too hard to set up his tent. So he kept marching through the darkness – for 48 more hours!

Some may wonder why Horn would dedicate so much time and energy to achieve such a monumental goal, given that he is married and has two children. The risks that he faced on this trip were quite real; several times he came close to perishing on the icy tundra and under the Arctic waves.

But Horn is different than the rest of us. He is driven to succeed on a larger scale than most of us weekend warriors. He carves out huge, audacious goals and throws himself into achieving them with a supreme confidence and a total lack of inhibition.

In addition to being a modern day adventure, Conquering The Impossible also reads as a guide for setting and achieving goals. For this adventure to succeed, Horn had to prepare himself and his body with strenuous training. He had to acquire the right sponsors and ensure that he had the right clothing and equipment (some equipment had to be custom made, because nobody had ever subjected it to such extreme conditions). He had to assemble a team that he could depend on to replenish his supplies and to assist with communications and logistics, from start to finish. 

Conquering The Impossible is an inspiring story that should provoke readers to aim higher and stretch farther than they are accustomed to. Many self-help books promise to change or improve our lives; few actually do. This book will entirely change your mind about what is possible with the right attitude and a single-minded determination.

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