XX Factor: The Ice Queen Cometh

You hear sometimes about how the Arctic changes people — how It can lead them to lose their minds a little bit, or make dumb mistakes. Then there are those rare adventurers like Sarah McNair-Landry who are at their best on the ice. McNair-Landry grew up near the Arctic Circle, on Baffin Island. At 18, she joined an unsupported skiing expedition to the South Pole. A year later, she dogsledded north and became the youngest person to reach both poles. And that was just a warm up. McNair-Landry has since crossed the Greenland ice sheet five times and traversed the Gobi Desert in a kite buggy, among other journeys. At 33, she’s showing no signs of slowing down. Last year, she led a team that towed kayaks 400 miles across Greenland to complete the first descent of a river they’d seen only on Google Earth. That was the plan, anyway — but almost nothing went as expected. Outside contributing editor Florence Williams sat down with McNair-Landry at Mountainfilm, in Telluride, Colorado, to talk about the thrill of sailing in frozen landscapes, close encounters with polar bears, and where she’s going next.

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