Intrepid polar explorers gave it their best. Falling short of North Pole, they were slowed by 60-foot ice ridges

Hiking 220 miles over thick but constantly moving Arctic Ocean ice is a feat by anyone's measure. But for Nebraskan Mike McGuire, getting less than halfway from Canada's Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole was something of a disappointment.

Mr. McGuire and three colleagues prepared carefully for the subzero venture and had hoped to be the first to make the trek on foot.

They set out in early March. But two of the hikers, who served as the team's navigators, turned back after only two weeks.

McGuire and Alaskan Bob Jacobs continued on for a total of eight weeks. But the combination of conflicting readings on their compasses (which lead them further east than planned) and much poorer than expected ice conditions eventually forced them to abandon their goal.

Much of the time was spent climbing giant boulders of ice and getting around and over the 50-to-60-foot-high ice pressure ridges. Ridges are formed when large masses of ice push against each other.

``It was in every possible jumble you can imagine,'' McGuire told the Monitor.

Often the ridges were only a few dozen yards apart. Because of them the hikers had to walk an extra 80 miles, sharply limiting their progress.

``Our motto became `a mile a day.' '' he recalls.

In the end, after they had lost radio communication for four days with their base camp at Canada's Resolute Bay, the hikers decided it was wisest to halt the expedition.

The two were flown back April 30 by a supply plane that had been monitoring the trek.

Since then, McGuire and Jacobs have taken some comfort from the fact that the ice and snow samples they collected are being analyzed for their pollution content by the University of New Hampshire and Carnegie-Mellon University.

The two also noted that they had walked farther toward their goal than anyone else before them.

``We're content with our performance and the fact that we did our best,'' says McGuire.

Mr. McGuire expects to be married, as planned, this summer, but may not return to his job as a free-lance draftsman.

``I like people and I may go into public relations,'' he says.

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