PolarExplorers guide Taylor Sweitzer with gear after completing the Vatnajokull Glacier crossing in Iceland

Guides & Staff

We are so proud of our family of guides and staff. You'll find them extremely knowledgeable, easy to get along with and eager to share their expertise. Among their top priorities is helping each participant become comfortably self sufficient. From choosing the best gear to helping you learn how to keep your sled from rolling, our guides want to help you thrive, not just survive. Perhaps best of all they are genuinely invested in making your experience as positive and rewarding as possible. 

Want to learn more about our guides and some of their experiences? Many of them contributed stories to There Are Strange Things Done In The Midnight Sun, a collection of stories celebrating PolarExplorers' 25th anniversary. You can order a copy from our store or from Amazon by clicking here.

Meet all our guides and staff below:

PolarExplorers book of guide stories titled "There are strange things done in the midnight sun."

Meet Our Guides & Staff

Annie Aggens

Annie Aggens loves the polar regions and gets to talk about them every day as director of PolarExplorers. She has guided multiple expeditions to the North Pole, South Pole, Greenland and Iceland. She is the author of the Encyclopedia of Outdoor and Wilderness Skills and often lectures about polar history and expedition travel. Her role as polar guide allows her to teach people  about the effects of climate change on the Arctic and polar regions. Favorite tent pastime? Playing her "guitarita" and having peotry slams. She is on the board of the International Polar Guide Association.

Chris Paustian

Chris Paustian loves the cold and always prefers to be on the water, even if it's frozen. During winter storms Chris likes to play "surf & turf", that's an hour of surfing the swells of the Pacific followed by an hour of skiing. He loves to share his passion for the outdoors with other adventurers, especially in the Arctic. If you like spicy food, be sure to sit near Chris at mealtimes. He is the official PolarExplorers hot sauce thaw-master. When he's not on expedition, you can find Chris kayaking, paddleboarding and surfing in the vicinity of Seattle, WA regardless of wind, rain or snow.

Eric Lillstrom

Eric came to Polar Explorers with an extensive, well-rounded background in a wide variety of  outdoor skills. His real strengths lie in his teamwork and problem-solving abilities. His empathetic nature and fun personality are put to good use helping our polar teams reach their  goals. Eric is an avid backpacker, bow-hunter, and fisherman. His advice is, “Take every  opportunity offered to enjoy nature. Experiencing the outdoors is what keeps us grounded and  allows us to appreciate our day-to-day lives.” His favorite expedition? North Pole Last Degree  Ski.

Rick Sweitzer

Rick Sweitzer created and co-guided the first ever dogsled and ski expedition to the North Pole for amateur adventurers in 1993. Since then he has guided well over a dozen expeditions to the North and South Poles. Rick has been guiding winter mountaineering and ski expeditions for the last 25 years. He is an expert at spinning the "fun meter" and often hosts a "cocktail hour" in his tent at night. He is a legend in the industry and a great companion on the ice!

Keith Heger

Keith Heger is a master at navigating rubble zones and he is famous for cooking up delicious fajitas après ski. He has guided more than a dozen North Pole, South Pole and Greenland Crossing expeditions. Keith is a gear head, he loves to talk about gizmos and gadgets relating to polar travel. You just might find him testing out the newest piece of kit during an expedition. In his free time you'll find him SUP boarding with his two sons or teaching them how to ski.

Nancy Vedder

Nancy is the bedrock of our office. She keeps our accounts in order and takes care of so many administrative tasks that we can't keep track. If you register for an expedition with her you'll likely hear from Nancy at some point. She's very familiar with our expeditions, having been our radio contact before there were satellite phones. She's participated in our Polar Shakedown Training and absolutely LOVED the part where we go into the ice hole (not so much actually). Nancy is kind, funny and loves to work with our participants.

Nancy Moundalexis

Nancy Moundalexis may hold our annual record for the most nights spent under the stars, or the midnight sun as is often the case! Besides guiding for PolarExplorers she works with the US Forest Service. Nancy's friendly smile and fun-loving personality will help to keep you warm on the coldest of days. She's always in search of the perfect cup of coffee so if a morning java is a part of your daily routine you'll appreciate having Nancy as a guide. She loves the subtle and beautiful colors of the pack ice and sharing the wonders of the world's coldest climates with her teams.

Chris Maher

Chris Maher loves cold weather and the two activities that go best with it - skiing and running dogs. His passion for the adventurous life has led him to Greenland where he has guided expeditions on both coasts and has lived in Scoresbysund. When he's not guiding or training his own dog teams you'll find him in Alaska running freight by dog teams for the US Forest Service. Chris is easy to like, positive, and he's got enough energy to power the sun on a cloudy day. Join him on an expedition and you'll rarely see him in a tent - he much prefers sleeping out under the 24 hour polar sun.

Taylor Sweitzer

Taylor Sweitzer first traveled to the North Pole when he was only 9 years old then came back at age 15 to become the youngest person to ski the last degree to the Pole. He's also climbed several of the world's tallest peaks. But you would never know this from talking with him. He is humble, soft spoken and more interested in other people's experiences. Taylor has guided at both Poles and around the world. You'll enjoy his tendency to celebrate the best parts of any situation and he is quicker than lightning to lend a hand whenever one is needed. 

Byron Bade

Byron grew up in the north woods of Wisconsin close to the shores of Lake Superior with a love of wild places coursing through his veins.  He has spent the last ten years leading paddling and dogsledding expeditions with Outward Bound all over North America.  Byron splits his time between Ely, MN, the Apostle Islands, and North Carolina where he is Program Director of Outward Bound's Outer Banks Sea Kayak Program.  He takes pleasure in creating fine food in the backcountry, and believes that the wilderness is the greatest teacher of all.

Andrew Leary

Andrew came to Polar Explorers with an extensive background of guiding groups in the outdoors. He is an incredibly gifted educator and has a knack for being able to relay technical skills and concepts to anyone he's with. His calm, friendly demeanor makes him a hit with just about everyone. Andrew's day job is developing youth curriculum for Leave No Trace, the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program in the USA. When not on an expedition, you'll find Andrew instructing mountaineering courses for the University of Utah, ski touring in the Rockies and entertaining his highly energetic dog named Benny.

Dirk Jensen

Before Dirk Jensen started guiding North Pole expeditions for PolarExplorers he led expeditions and traveled extensively in the Canadian sub-arctic. You could say that the Arctic-fever bug bit him hard. He's guided both North and South Pole expeditions and he loves the high latitudes. His passion is photography and he's always trying out new lenses or camera systems to see how they perform in the cold. People love Dirk for his easygoing personality and his technical knowledge of everything from the pack-ice to the gear that we use.

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Our Location

1130 Greenleaf Avenue

Wilmette, IL 60091

Email: info@polarexplorers.com
Tel: 847-256-4409 or 800-RECREATE

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