4 ready for a 5,000-mile ski-kayak-bike adventure

January 06, 1993|By McClatchy News Service

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The spirit of adventure will live o through four Spaniards as they ski, kayak and bicycle their way from the sub-zero temperatures of interior Alaska through the blistering heat of Death Valley and on to the tip of Baja California.

The three men and one woman have dubbed their expedition, "From the Arctic to the Tropics" and plan to start the 5,000-mile journey Friday in Fort Yukon.

The four will ski from Fort Yukon through Canada and the Chilkoot Pass to Skagway, then board kayaks and follow the coast to Vancouver, British Columbia. In Vancouver, they'll switch to bicycles, which they'll ride through central Washington, Oregon and California, and end their six-month journey at the tip of Baja California in the Mexican town of San Lucas.

The four adventurers, Jesus Ortiz Zabala, Dina Bilbao Barruetabena, Pablo Dendaluze Izagirre and Iosu Iztueta Azkue, will get more than just a great workout and burns from sun and frost on the expedition.

"The best objective is to finish it and enjoy the fact that we finished it," Mr. Izagirre said.

The group arrived in Anchorage Dec. 30 to purchase supplies before driving to Fairbanks and a flight to Fort Yukon.

"Another benefit will be in getting to know other places and peoples, especially the indigenous peoples," Mr. Izagirre said.

The group mapped out a course that will bring them to smaller villages and towns along the route where they hope to learn more about the area's culture while reloading on food and other supplies, Mr. Izagirre said. Their choice of skis and kayaks was to better understand their use in northern cultures.

"In Fort Yukon, we'll exchange information on how Basque elementary schools work for information on their schools," Mr. Azkue said.

Basque is the region in northeastern Spain that all four members call home. Violence has flared in the region during the last two decades over whether Basque should break away from Spain.

In addition to cultural exchanges, the four are carrying medical kits to record the effects of extreme weather changes on the body for a Spanish medical institute. The group hopes two other outcomes of the expedition will help them pay for its cost, which they're paying out-of-pocket.

"We plan to write a book about our experiences on the expedition and make a documentary for Basque Public Television," Mr. Izagirre said. "We'll also call Basque radio and newspapers with updates when we are able."

The group has received some help from sponsors, including kayaks lent from a German firm and bicycles lent from a Canadian company.

The four are ready for the grueling physical and mental challenge of the trip thanks to past adventures, Mr. Azkue said.

"Before this, some of us skied across Lapland and Greenland, kayaked across the Mediterranean Sea and bicycled in the Pyrenees," Mr. Azkue said. "And Dina is the women's winter and summer triathlon champion of Spain."

Asked whether any of them feels awkward about three men and one woman sleeping in one tent for 180 nights, Ms. Barruetabena replied with a smile and a wave of the hand. "Oh, it's not my first expedition like this," she said. "I'm accustomed to such things and these are my good friends."

When their adventure is over, Mr. Izagirre will return to his job in television, Mr. Azkue will go back to being a tour organizer, Ms. Barruetabena will train for her next triathlon, and Mr. Zabala will again be a ski instructor.

And for their next adventure?

"We've always been fascinated by the South Pole," Mr. Izagirre said.

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