Ed Viesturs Launches Baffin Expedition Today

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What do you do after you become the first American to climb all 8,000-meter peaks without oxygen? Other than basking in your own badass-ness, of course? If you're "Special" Ed Viesturs, you team up with world-class Arctic explorer and dog musher John Stetson for a 20-day, 150-mile excursion into the frigid expanse of Canada's Baffin Island.

The expedition, nicknamed "Healthy Planet=Healthy People," will showcase the effects of climate change by heading into one of the most pristine but vulnerable polar regions to examine and report on conditions first-hand. Viesturs and Stetson will also commune with Inuit residents to get the local perspective on global warming and how it's changing their daily lives.

But get this: Technically, this trip is just a warm-up. Stetson and Viesturs are also using this trip as a test-run for the gear, systems and strategy they could need for a possible future ski journey to the South Pole. The unsupported South Pole expedition is described as being "significantly longer," and could include at least 600 miles of travel over the coldest, most remote place on earth. Gulp.

But for now, Viesturs and Stetson will focus on gathering climate change evidence and data from the starkly beautiful Baffin Island, where they still face stiff cold, tough weather, and maybe even a polar bear or two. They plan to send updates from Baffin via satellite phone, so stay tuned. — Ted Alvarez