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5.0 out of 5 stars Kobalenko is a true original, Feb. 9 2002
David Golibersuch (Manchester Center, VT USA) - See all my reviews
The Horizontal Everest is first and foremost an autobiographical account of one man's love affair with a very special place on Earth. Others have been seduced by Ellesmere's siren song; Jerry Kobalenko's is arguably the extreme case. "I wanted to embrace every inch of Ellesmere's 76,600 square miles." [roughly the combined area of England and Scotland]
It is also a wonderful smorgasbord of arctic history, exploration, culture, and wildlife as well as accounts of fascinating and often harrowing journeys. Indeed, many the folk you'll meet in this book don't get out alive. There are homicides, suicides, deaths by starvation and exposure, and some unsolved mysteries of explorers who simply vanished.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure. In addition, arctic history buffs will find much to chew on. For the dedicated, the book also includes an excellent annotated bibliography.

While a serious book, the author occasionally treats us to his brand of earthy humor. For example, he describes the challenge of eating enough to stay warm..."I simply could not hoover in more than 7,000 calories a day. My jaw ached from chewing, I got hemorrhoids from all the activity of a supercharged metabolism, and I ran out of things I wanted to eat. Even a whole strawberry shortcake every day palls after a while."
Kobalenko educates the reader on adaptations necessary for arctic. "Of all arctic skills, learning to relinquish expectations is the most important." "Every journey throws unnerving twists in the traveler's path. Some of us thrive on this insecurity, or at least accept it. Others crack."
Now and then Kobalenko treats us to his philosophy of living. "...hard wilderness travel...simplifies your own character, so that if you are basically good, the effort can make you purer and better..."
Although toughened by the harsh environment he frequents, Kobalenko remains awed by the sheer beauty of the land. Gazing on the ice caps of western Ellesmere, he waxes lyrically "...everything just looked incredibly pure. The perfect curves of white against an intense blue sky could have been drawn by the hand of God." On one occasion, while soaking up the spectacular beauty of Alexandra Fjord, he listened to Beethoven; "'Ode to Joy' seemed particularly appropriate" he notes.
Jerry Kobalenko is a true original; such folk come across our path only rarely but when they do, they help make this a life worth living. This book makes such an encounter available to all.

In the Epilogue, the author talks about amateurs seduced by Ellesmere. "...they proudly hump sixty-pound packs in a place where it snows in July" while their "social circle vacations in Hawaii..." He emphasizes his point by noting that one such crazy "who lost part of his big toe to frostbite considers it a badge of honor that connects him to the old explorers." Jerry Kobalenko suggested that I so regard my toe. I have had the pleasure of meeting him and listening to his tales first hand on two serendipitous occasions; both were on Ellesmere Island. Where else?
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Arctic for Armchair Adventurers, April 1 2002
R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" (Columbus, Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews
It is fun to read about what makes Jerry Kobalenko happy. It will be even more fun for the huge majority of readers to realize how little fun they would have doing the same things. The minority who fantasize about being chased by a polar bear, sledding in midnight daylight, or camping at 58 degrees below zero Fahrenheit will find lots of useful information in Kobalenko's book, _The Horizontal Everest: Extreme Journeys on Ellesmere Island_ (Soho Press). The rest of us may shake our heads in wonder, and be glad that reading the book is as close as we need get to one of the harshest environments on Earth. "Where is Ellesmere Island? Think of the little metal disk that sits on top of a globe: Ellesmere is under that." It is a Canadian island, just 450 miles from the North Pole.
He doesn't live there all the time (he lives in Canada), because he does have to make a living, which he does mostly by taking photographs and writing about his travels on his island and other inhospitable spots. For the past fifteen years, he has roamed the island in various expeditions, often solo. He has traveled, by foot, thousands of miles across and around the island, more than anyone alive. He doesn't use dogs. He has no radio. He hikes, pulling a sled full of the stuff he predicts he will need. He writes about preparing beforehand 54 peanut butter and jam sandwiches (one per day) because "long ago, I had discovered that making a sandwich on the arctic trail meant hacking for fifteen minutes at toffee-hard peanut butter with a Swiss Army knife and laying the shrapnel between crumbly pieces of frozen bread." Coated with butter, each thousand-calorie sandwich was like "vegetarian seal blubber," full of energy required for a freezing pack animal.
Much of this book tells the story of other travelers in the area. Kobalenko recreates some of the expeditions from the past, visiting the campsites from the last two centuries which the arctic cold has preserved. He is delighted whenever he finds cairns, the traditional rock piles set up as commemorative markers. Sometimes there is a note in a bottle, and he is the first to poke around and bring it back home. He might turn up rusted cans, matches, buttons, and shell casings, as he did at Starvation Camp, where most of the members of Adolphus Greely's expedition died in 1884. He feels guilty making his simple meals there. He sees for himself Crocker Land which was sighted by Perry in 1906. Perry knew that explorers make names for themselves by finding new territories, and also that they finance their expeditions by flattering those who back them. Perry named Crocker Land after a backer of his expedition. A later one sent to find it demonstrated that Perry had only seen a mirage. Combining history, natural science, and adventure, Kobalenko's surprising observations, written in smooth, calm, sensible prose, are entertaining throughout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extreme adventure; extremely interesting, Feb. 17 2002
Louis O. Constantini "" (Las Cruces, NM USA) - See all my reviews
The first point to make about Jerry Kobalenko, author of The Horizontal Everest is that he is exactly whom he represents himself to be: a resourceful, self-reliant, self-sufficient arctic trekker. My introduction to Kobalenko was while standing in the lee of Skraeling Island watching a lone skier, man-hauling a sled on the southern side of Alexandra Fiord. I had just finished a dogsled navigation of Svedrup Pass in a conflict ridden and dissension riddled group, much as had been experienced by the author on at least one occasion, and some of the treks he describes of others.
This is a well-written book, which describes on a very human level the personal and physical effort of the arctic experience. He easily brings to life personalities and events much better than the score of history books I have read of the arctic.
Three kinds of readers would enjoy this book. Firstly, the reader who occasionally randomly chooses a book in hopes of being entertained educated or enlightened. Another person who would derive pleasure is someone who has an academic interest in the arctic, or, who enjoys books of personal effort, and enjoys histories and descriptions of arcane places and events. Finally, anyone with actual arctic experience who wants to relive places and experiences would find this book captivating.
One warning: begin this book when you have a free weekend, because once you start it, you can kiss your weekend goodbye, as you will be unable to put it aside.
On a personal note, though Kobalenko gives little credibility to the Cook claim, it was a passing comment by him that got me interested in the Peary/Cook controversy such that I am now on the board of the Dr. Frederick A. Cook Society. Also, however well written, listening to Jerry describe his Gun Fight at Polar Bear Corral is much more entertaining while sitting on insulated sleeping mats, drinking hot Tang while warming one's hands on the walls of the insulated mug, near the ice foot of an island, in a frozen sea of ice.
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The Horizontal Everest: Extreme Journeys on Ellesmere Island
The Horizontal Everest: Extreme Journeys on Ellesmere Island by Jerry Kobalenko (Paperback - April 1 2010)
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