Ann Bancroft: Wander woman

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2013 - 10:34 AM

Ann Bancroft reflects upon her polar adventures and announces her next stop — the Himalayas.

hide

Ann Bancroft and her dog, Scissors, relax on the front porch at her farmhouse on the St. Croix River.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Sitting on the porch of her vintage farmhouse that overlooks the St. Croix River, Ann Bancroft appeared more homebody than polar explorer the other day.

Now 57 — fully 27 years after she became the first woman to reach the North Pole by dog sled — Bancroft, effusive and upbeat on a summer morning, was flanked by her oversized Alaskan malamute, Scissors, who snoozed contentedly except when harassed by the playful comings-and-goings of three cats.

Not far away, a coop full of laying hens paraded helter-skelter, bobbing and pecking, while a garden of tomatoes and other vegetables destined for a nearby farmers market grew behind tall fences intended to keep deer at bay.

“It was a lucky find,’’ Bancroft said of the picturesque farmstead. “It was a horse farm, and the older woman who had it wanted to move on.’’

Yet Bancroft’s tranquil surroundings belie a relentless adventurous bent that drives her no less today than in 1986 when she and Will Steger, six other adventurers and 48 sled dogs completed their 1,000 mile unsupported slog to the North Pole, the first-ever confirmed trek of its kind.

“That trip changed my life,’’ Bancroft said.

An outdoors junkie who pestered her parents beginning at age 8 to camp outside in winter, Bancroft was born in Mendota Heights and suffered as a kid from dyslexia.

Nevertheless, she graduated from the University of Oregon with a teaching degree. But after the North Pole expedition, she didn’t return to Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis, where she had been a wilderness instructor and gym teacher.

Instead in 1992 she headed north again, leading the first team of American women to ski across Greenland. Later she spearheaded a women’s expedition to the South Pole — again a first — and in 2001 she and Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen became the first women to complete a transcontinental crossing of Antarctica, a 1,700-mile journey that spanned 94 days.

Steger, who interviewed Bancroft for three consecutive days before selecting her for the North Pole expedition, said Bancroft’s “dogged persistence’’ is among her major attributes.

“She doesn’t give up easily,’’ he said. World by Water

Woven in and among Bancroft’s sojourns in recent decades have been fundraising and other work for Wilderness Inquiry (www.wildernessinquiry.com), the Twin Cities-based group that offers about 300 adventure outings each year, from daylong metro paddles of the Mississippi (including one on Saturday hosted by Bancroft), to African safaris.

Yet it’s a much grander, multicontinent adventure and education project that Bancroft and Arnesen will lead beginning next year in the Himalayas that consumes most of Bancroft’s time these days.

With six other women from six continents, the two will undertake a 1,500-mile, 60-day expedition on and along India’s Ganges River, on which some 400 million people depend for water, food and bathing.

A similar trip to Africa will follow in 2016, and to other continents thereafter.

The intent is to draw attention to the plight of the world’s waters, and water supplies.

“Water links us all as human beings,’’ Bancroft said. “Everyone needs water, and we all have challenges about it, no matter where we live. Yet even in the U.S., people aren’t aware of problems facing water.’’

Using the Internet and social media, as well as a classroom curriculum that will be distributed worldwide with partner groups, foundations and companies, the women hope to educate — and motivate — as many as 50 million kids, as well as adults.

“The world is radically different than it was in 1986, when we went to the North Pole,’’ Bancroft said. “It’s hard to imagine now, but we used a sextant to guide us then. There was no GPS (Global Positioning System), no email, Facebook or tweeting.’’

“The journey is what people will follow,’’ Bancroft said. “But in the process, we want people to better understand the issue, in this first instance to know that the Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

“This type of information creates knowledge and, hopefully, as we move the trips from continent to continent, knowledge will lead to people making a difference.’’

Steger — one of only 19 recipients since 1888 of National Geographic’s Oliver La Gorce Medal for exploration (Amelia Earhart and Admiral Robert Peary are among others) — is a believer.

“I chose Ann for the North Pole expedition primarily for two reasons,’’ Steger said. “One is that I knew she had saved the life of a climber friend who had succumbed to hypothermia.

“The other was her commitment to education. At heart, Ann’s a teacher.’’

 

Dennis Anderson • 612-673-4424









 

  • related content

  • Bancroft teamed with Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen in 2001 to become the first women to ski across Antarctica. Above, Bancroft pulled her 250-pound sled.

  • This 1986 photo shows the hardships that Will Steger, Ann Bancroft and six other adventurers endured on the Steger International Polar Expedition. During this trip, Bancroft became the first woman to reach the North Pole.

  • This photo provided by the Bancroft Arnesen Explore shows Ann Bancroft of Minnesota talking on a satellite phone during a North Pole expedition with Norwegian Liv Arnesen in Ward Hunt Island, Canada, Tuesday, March 6, 2007. What was intended to be a 530 mile (853 kilometers) trek across the Arctic Ocean to bring attention to global warming was called off March 10, 2007, after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 12:05 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:05 PM
Atlanta
Miami 12:05 PM
Boston
Minnesota 12:05 PM
Tampa Bay
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Philadelphia
Baltimore 12:07 PM
Toronto
Detroit 12:10 PM
NY Mets
Cincinnati 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles 2:05 PM
Milwaukee
San Francisco 2:05 PM
Texas
Chicago WSox 2:05 PM
San Diego
Kansas City 2:05 PM
Cleveland
Seattle 2:05 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 2:10 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:10 PM
Arizona
Pittsburgh 6:05 PM
NY Yankees
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Orlando
Utah 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Miami 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Boston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Detroit 7:00 PM
Houston
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Memphis
Phoenix 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 6:30 PM
Detroit
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Chicago
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 11:00 AM
Char Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 11:00 AM
Miss Valley St
Southern Ill 12:05 PM
Wichita State
Winthrop 1:00 PM
Radford
Evansville 2:35 PM
Illinois State
Towson 5:00 PM
Elon
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
High Point
Samford 5:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Ball State
Bowling Green 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Brown 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
Toledo 6:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Akron 6:00 PM
Kent State
Ill-Chicago 6:00 PM
Oakland
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Ohio
Columbia 6:00 PM
Penn
Cornell 6:00 PM
Princeton
Central Mich 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bradley 6:05 PM
Northern Iowa
Morehead State 6:30 PM
Murray State
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Yale 7:00 PM
Harvard
Furman 7:30 PM
Citadel
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Drexel
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 34 2nd Half
(21) George Washington 40
Wake Forest 21 2nd Half
(16) Duke 36
Furman 19 2nd Half
(17) Chattanooga 33
Monmouth 11:00 AM
Quinnipiac
Michigan State 11:30 AM
(4) Maryland
Belmont 12:00 PM
UT Martin
Arkansas 12:00 PM
(3) South Carolina
Mercer 12:30 PM
East Tenn St
Richmond 1:00 PM
Fordham
Miami-Florida 1:00 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Siena 1:30 PM
Iona
Washington St 1:30 PM
(9) Arizona State
Ark-Pine Bluff 1:30 PM
Miss Valley St
(23) Rutgers 1:55 PM
(24) Northwestern
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
SIU-Edwardsville
Loyola Marymount 2:00 PM
Gonzaga
(18) Texas A&M 2:25 PM
LSU
Cincinnati 3:00 PM
UCF
Saint Josephs 3:30 PM
Dayton
UCLA 4:00 PM
(19) Stanford
Santa Clara 4:30 PM
San Diego
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
(7) Florida State
SMU 5:00 PM
Memphis
Lehigh 5:05 PM
Holy Cross
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
(20) Fla Gulf Coast
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Stetson
Nebraska 6:00 PM
(14) Iowa
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Marist
Navy 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Lafayette 6:00 PM
American Univ
Colgate 6:00 PM
Army
Georgia 6:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
Brown
Penn 6:00 PM
Columbia
(13) Princeton 6:00 PM
Cornell
Kansas 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Harvard 6:00 PM
Yale
(15) North Carolina 7:00 PM
(10) Louisville
San Jose St 7:00 PM
UNLV
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close