Folks in Basking Ridge might find it a little odd to see a young man walking around town harnessed to a stack of tires. But really, what better way is there to train for a 342-mile trek on skis across Greenland’s ice cap?
And if you’re Akshay Nanavati, it’s all just a walk in the park.
Nanavati, 27, has already scaled almost 30 mountains in five countries, explored five glacier caves in Nepal and completed a five-day safari in Africa. His adventures are not all fun and games. He has also served in the U.S. Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom and completed certification courses for firefighting and wilderness first response. “I want to experience a bit of everything because each experience presents its own challenges and forces you to face different fears,” says Nanavati, a native of India who moved to Basking Ridge with his wife, Shruthi, just over a year ago to be near her family. “I might not be the best at any one thing, but I’ll experience it all.”
During the Greenland adventure, which he will undertake in April as part of a guided team, Nanavati will have to drag a sled carrying all his supplies for just shy of a month on the ice—the second largest ice cap in the world. “It’s my biggest expedition yet, longest out there,” he says. “It’s a physical challenge for sure, and it’s a mental challenge.”
To prepare, Nanavati enrolled in a polar training course in Minnesota where one of the exercises required him to chainsaw a hole in the ice and jump in. In January, he traveled to Norway to meet his team and learn the technical aspects of the expedition. At home, he runs and bikes as much as possible—and drags those tires.
“A lot of people stop me and ask what I’m doing, and when I tell them I’m training for this expedition across Greenland, they’re like, ‘Why?,’” he says. “But most of it boils down to it being a very spiritual experience. You feel more connected to the world, to yourself. It builds that character in yourself that you feel you can handle anything.” (Nanavati arrived for this interview on his mountain bike in umbrella-inverting wind and heavy, cold rain.)
Nanavati, who has a day job as a salesman, forked over about $10,000 for the Greenland trip. To make it more meaningful, he is raising money for Doctors Without Borders. “I like the idea of serving something,” he says. He’s hoping to raise $10 for every mile he’ll be skiing, a total of $3,420; so far, he’s raised about $600. You can donate to Nanavati’s cause and follow his journey at existing2living.com.