Woman skies into record books with trek to South Pole

In a week that a group of Royal Navy sailors and Royals Marines became the first military team in the world to reach the South Pole since 1912 British skier Hannah McKeand has skied into the record books for the fastest solo and unsupported trek to the geographic South Pole (the previous record was also held by a Brit).

And, to round off a week of milestone British trips to Antarctica, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, is to become the first Royal ever to travel to Antarctica.

Times Online

December 29, 2006

Briton skies into record books with trek to South Pole

Lucy Bannerman and Times Online

Hannah McKeand

A British woman has skied into the record books for the fastest solo and unsupported trek to the geographic South Pole.

Hannah McKeand, 33, completed the 690-mile ice marathon from the edge of Antarctica in 39 days, nine hours and 33 minutes, shaving almost two days off the current record.

Ms McKeand, from Newbury in Berkshire, arrived at the finish point at 8.33pm UK time last night and, according to a spokesman for the expedition, was "on great form" after a long sleep. She becomes the fastest person, male or female, to reach the South Pole solo and unsupported.

To complete her trek Ms McKeand spent nearly six lonely weeks dragging a 220lb sledge in temperatures as low as minus 35C.

How long her record stands remains to be seen.

With Everest no longer exclusive and the North Pole a no-go zone because of the melting ice, adrenalin junkies are increasingly setting their sights on the Antarctic.

Not far behind her are four Australian mountaineers who have walked ten hours a day for three weeks in the hope of becoming the first to scale the continent’s highest mountain, Mount Vinson, from sea level.

Two New Zealanders who have been towing sledges for 46 days are also attempting to make the first ski trip to the Pole without an airdrop of supplies.

They expect to reach their destination in about five days.

Speaking on the eve of her record-breaking achievement, Ms McKeand said that she was looking forward to the final 17-mile leg. "I shall see the Pole Station, a tiny black group of specks on the horizon, and I shall watch them grow bigger until I am among them. And there will be friends there to meet me. I am so excited.

"And yes, for the first time in the journey I think, there is a tiny part of me that doesn’t want it to end. The little crazy part that got me into this in the first place, the part that could just go on and on, skiing into the white and into the blue."

Ms McKeand, a Classics graduate, gave up her job at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury two years ago to commit herself to full-time exploring.

Having scaled the Hindu Kush, traversed the Libyan desert and sailed round the world, the Antarctic was the next natural challenge. It will be the second time she has set foot at the geographical South Pole but this will be the first time she has reached it alone.

She set out, unaided and without any from of external assistance, on November 19.

From Hercules Inlet, she travelled down the 82° longitudinal line, enduring a steady uphill climb through ice rubble and sastrugi — large frozen ridges of wind-blown snow and ice measuring up to 4 metres (13ft) — to reach the Pole.

Although the Pole technically stands at altitude of 9,301 feet, the lack of atmosphere means it is the equivalent of 11,000 feet for the climber.

It is currently summer in the Antarctic, but despite 24-hour sunlight, visibility can be poor.

Surviving on a diet of noodles and dried fruit, Ms McKeand has kept a strict routine of travelling 12 hours every day, burning a daily average of about 6,000 to 8,000 calories (a woman normally needs 2,000 calories a day).

She has dedicated the feat to her friend, Jill Fraser, who died of breast cancer this year, and she is hoping to raise money for the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity.

As she closed on her goal last night, her father, Ian, said: "I am very proud of what Hannah has achieved. She has accomplished so much over the last few months.

"I find it so admirable that somebody can lose a close friend like Jill and still end the year on such a high."

According to Mike Sharp, of Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, which monitored the expedition in case of emergencies and which offers guided tours in the region, reaching the South Pole is proving an increasingly popular challenge for a hard core of explorers as costs became less prohibitive.

Mr Sharp said that clients on the company’s first trek from Hercules Inlet to the Pole in 1988 paid about £50,000 each.

A guided client now pays nearly half that price.

Any age, on foot and with parasail

The existing record for the fastest solo and unsupported trek to the geographic South Pole is held by Fiona Thornewill, a Briton who completed the journey in 2003 in 41 days and 8 hours

Simon Murray, 63, from Bath, Avon became the oldest person to walk to the South Pole in January 2004

The fastest person to reach the South Pole was Børge Ousland, from Norway, who completed it in 34 days using a wind-assisted parasail

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Cold ... Princess Anne will be on Royal Navy ship HMS Endurance as it collects data in the Antarctic


Anne to perk up a penguin

December 29, 2006

PRINCESS Anne is going where no Royal has ever set foot — to walk with penguins in Antarctica.

Anne will become the most southerly Royal ever as she visits a British base on the continent — where temperatures are MINUS 30°C.

As the film Happy Feet — featuring Mumble the dancing penguin and voiced by Elijah Wood, Robin Williams and Nicole Kidman — packs cinemas here, she will see the real thing after travelling to the island of South Georgia next month.

The Princess Royal will join survey ship HMS Endurance, which is 11 weeks into its nine-month mission to collect data to investigate global warming.

The Royal Navy's Ice Patrol Vessel HMS Endurance

The crew of the only Royal Navy vessel currently in the Antarctic, are on a mission for the British Antarctic Survey.

Anne, 56, will probably be flown by one of the ship’s two Lynx helicopters to one of Britain’s Antarctica bases.

Endurance — motto “By endurance we conquer” — is named after Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, which got trapped in ice on his 1914-15 expedition.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 29th, 2006 at 02:09 PM..
She did this unaided and unsupported? With no means of communication available if things went wrong? With no rescue plan at the ready if required? With zero communication while in transit? Dunno. Sounds fishy to me. And given the Mt. Hood disaster still on our screens, I can only think all such efforts are eminently foolish. And even a little childish, given the huge costs to be borne if something doesn't fit to plan.
I would imagine she had emergency comm equip. What an amazing accomplishment. 6000-8000 calories a day on noodles and dried fruit, that's a lot of noodles and dried fruit. I am an avid xc skier and snowshoer and am totally jealous. I wish I had the gumption to try something like that.

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