About the expedition

In April 2010, Elham Al-Qasimi will attempt an unassisted expedition to the North Pole. During a three-week journey, Elham will ski cross-country to the North Pole starting at 89 degrees latitude. As a result, she will be the first Arab woman to set foot on the North Pole and the first UAE national to ski to the North Pole, with no food drops, no re-supplies and no visits to towns or settlements.

About the expedition

Departing from the Russian ice station Borneo at 89ºN, Elham’s trek will see her cross the final degree of latitude by cross-country ski – currently the preferred method of travel across the Arctic Ocean. She will only use natural human means of propulsion, i.e. legs and arms, as apposed to expeditions which use non-human means such as motorised equipment. Elham’s mission will be ski-assisted. In polar exploration, ski-assisted usually means embarking on an expedition without any re-supplies or other assistance once on the ice. Therefore all supplies to last the hundred or so nautical miles that she will ski to reach the North Pole will be carried on a sled pulled by herself.

The pack ice of the Arctic Ocean is always shifting; leads crack open and pressure ridges build into massive walls of ice chunks. As a result, the expedition may see her travel east, west and at times even south to avoid these obstacles. The shifting ice makes the exact distance Elham will travel difficult to estimate. To add to the challenge of it all is the extreme cold temperatures, often as cold as -40 ºC.

Elham’s trek will be directed by experienced guides from one of the world’s leading expedition companies, Polar Explorers. She aims to undertake the expedition with optimism, ambition, humility, discipline and responsible action.

Elham Al-Qasimi

Until she resigned to focus completely on her North Pole expedition, Elham Al-Qasimi was an investment manager at the Impetus Trust. She conducted due diligence on charities and social enterprises to identify those with the most distinctive delivery models and build a case for investment committee approval.

Elham was born in July 1982 in Dubai, UAE. She earned a degree in Business and Marketing at the American University in Dubai in 2004, and then moved to London to study at the London School of Economics for an MSc in Management of NGOs. On graduating with a Distinction for her thesis, Elham took an internship at the Overseas Development Institute, a leading think tank for international development.

Read more about Elham →

Training programme

In order to build her physical and mental endurance for the expedition, Elham worked with Lomax Bespoke Fitness, Nutrition and Wellbeing to develop a high-performance training programme designed to optimise strength and power whilst enhancing agility and speed.

The training plan is flexible in order to include all the fundamental components of fitness, nutrition and well-being, taking into account the practicalities of a 5-day work week, the idiosyncrasies of seasonal weather (specifically, ensuring cold climate conditions) and personal health issues.

Read more about Elham’s training →


Map of the North Pole

Expeditions to the North Pole

The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole, is the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets the Earth’s surface. At the North Pole all directions point south. The North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amidst waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice.

The North Pole is the Everest of polar expeditions. Surrounded by sea ice and in total darkness for half the year, the Pole is reachable only during a short time window. If too early, darkness and extremely cold temperatures make the challenge excessively dangerous. If too late, an increasingly melting Arctic ice cap makes the journey across the frozen ocean impossible.

Controversy surrounds who was the first human being to reach the Pole. It was only conclusively reached in 1968, by a team of Americans on dogs, and by foot years later in 1979 by a team of Russians.