Top adventurers: Eric & Sarah McNair-Landry
They’re exploring the Arctic as if it was their backyard. Wait a minute—it is their backyard
Iqaluit, Nunavut // Age: 27 and 25
Will Steger had 40 years of high-latitude experience when a young brother-and-sister team from Iqaluit schooled him on the future of polar expeditions. Steger, a renowned adventurer and environmental activist from Minnesota, joined Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry on a kiteskiing expedition across the Greenland Ice Cap in 2008. For someone accustomed to the snail’s pace of traditional travel by ski or dogsled, harnessing the wind with parabolic kites added a staggering degree of efficiency to polar expeditioning.
It was a real eye-opener,” says Steger. “We were travelling so fast…it was almost like a dream to me. I just never pictured myself being able to do that.”
Equally astounding are the expedition resumés of the siblings McNair-Landry. Eric has made six journeys on the desolate ice cap by foot and ski, has been to the South pole, and holds the record for distance covered by kiteski in a day—a whopping 595 kilometres. Sarah travelled to Greenland five times; she’s also the youngest person to have reached both poles, has climbed the highest mountain in the Americas (6,962-metre Aconcagua, in Argentina), and is a cinematographer with a National Film Board title to her credit. Together, the offspring of explorers Matty McNair and Paul Landry comprise Team Pittarak (the word means “fierce winds” in Greenlandic).
“We were lucky enough to grow up on Baffin Island with two of the best polar guides as parents, the Arctic Ocean as our backyard, and a team of dogs at our disposal,” says Sarah. “We learned at a young age how to live and travel comfortably in cold weather.”
Last spring, the pair attempted what is arguably their most audacious journey to date: kiteskiing Roald Amundsen’s 1906 sailing route through the Northwest Passage. The 3,300-kilometre course involved tricky navigation over sketchy ice floes and bisected the heart of polar bear habitat. They completed the journey in 85 days.
Joining forces with high-profile environmental activists like the British banking heir David de Rothschild, the McNair-Landrys have followed Steger’s lead in working to communicate the impacts of climate change from the front lines. But there’s always the question of what they’ll do next. “Eric and Sarah are going to be challenged because they’ve already done just about everything there is to do up there,” says Steger. “Their big challenge is going to be finding the next big challenge.”
This profile is part of our Top 30 under 30 feature.
This article was originally published on October 2011