iceaxe1996 American Top Of The World Expedition

The Expedition The Team The Dream The Future The Video

The Dream-Told by Ken Zerbst, Expedition Co-leader

The Beginning

It all began back in early 1977 when I was an undergraduate Geology student at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

While reviewing a National Geographic map of the Arctic Ocean for a Historical Geology lab, I became interested in the mountainous penninsula of North Peary Land, Greenland. As I rotated my fingers in a compass-like fashion with one finger fixed on the North Pole and on the northern tip of Greenland with another, I confirmed this region of North Peary Land was indeed the northernmost land region of the world. I became excited about the possibility of going there and began my research into the exploration history of this unique region of the world.


My research proved this area to be largely unexplored. This excited me more as I began to think in terms of a large old world multidisciplinary style expedition encompassing exploration and scientific research to this remote region.

I talked over the idea of an expedition to North Pearyland with my northernlands professor, Dr. Donn K. Haglund and got the encouragement I needed to continue my plans.

With the help of longtime friend and adventurer Jim Schaefer and climbing partner John Jancik who both shared the spirit of adventure, we began making plans for our expedition.

Early Attempts

John Jancik and I formed a co-leadership arrangement and put together our first expedition in 1979 with plans to go to North Peary Land in the summer of 1980. We failed in 1980 mostly due to lack of funding and a generally inexperienced group. We also failed in 1986 and 1989. With each new attempt we gained experience in our group. Still, financial support was hard to attract.

Though we failed at these early attempts, the goal remained and the spirit endured. With each failed attempt we learned and matured.

Success in 1996

Finally it all came together in 1996; finances, the experience of our team, and the permission we needed from the Danish government. We were on our way and nearing the end of a 17 year dream.

Moral to the Story

If this story has a moral to pass on it would be to never give up on your dreams. Learn from your failures, mature with each step-taking time to reorganize and do it better until you accomplish your goal.

In the end when I succeeded in realizing my dream, standing on the top of the world with close friends, the feeling was incredible, changing my life forever. The goal achieved, makes all the effort over the years very well worth it.

Many thanks to Our Sponsors for their help in making this possible.

Kenneth L. Zerbst, Expedition Co-leader