McKeand Hannah (Great Britain)
Hannah is an accomplished polar guide and expeditioner and in 2006 set a world record for skiing from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole; a 690 mile journey she completed in just 39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes. She has now skied to the South Pole six times, more times than any other person in history, and completed numerous expeditions in the other polar regions of the world.
Born in Bristol in 1973 and raised in the woods and hills of the north Somerset coast, Hannah got a degree in Classics at Lampeter University and then worked as a theatre manager for ten years before slipping sideways into the very different world of polar guiding and adventure travel .
In 2001 the urge to explore began to develop with a trip to the Western Desert on the borders of Egypt, Libya and Sudan with a Hungarian lead expedition in search of prehistoric rock art in the mountains of Uweinat and the Gilf Kebir plateau. This extraordinary trip took Hannah to the centre of the second biggest wilderness on the planet, an uninhabited area the size of India, and the sand and space got into her head. For the next three years Hannah continued to return to Jebel Uweinat twice a year via both Egypt and Libya, made a nerve-wracking first ascent of the tricky 2000m peak from the Egyptian side and attempted an ascent of the unclimbed Mount Tazat in Algeria with an Austrian lead team.
In 2004 Hannah joined a British expedition to explore the isolated Wakan Corridor in the northeast of Afghanistan insearch of the source of the River Oxus. The long remote valley is walled by the Hindu Kushin Pakistan to the south,the Pamirs in Tajikistan to the north and the Karakorams in China to the east. The upper regions of this area can only be reached on foot by crossing several 15,000ft passes and has rarely been visited by westerners.
Later in 2004 Hannah had her first experience of a cold desert in an epic 56 day expedition skiing the 730 miles and 10 degrees from the coast of Antarctica to the geographic South Pole. Crossing the vast and monotonous expanse of one of the harshest environments in the world the team of five battled with physical and mental exhaustion, frostbite, injury, hunger and some of the lowest temperatures on earth. Here is how Hannah answered to a question asked more than ten times a day at that time, "why Antarctica?"
"The plain truth is that I honestly can't remember why I ever decided that walking to the South Pole would be a good thing to do. I vaguely remember a conversation with my Bavarian friend Bernie out in the Libyan Desert a few days after a particularly horrifying ascent of Jebel Uweinat. But I seem to recall that that conversation was simply a catalogue of crazy things to do rather than any statement of intent. Nevertheless I do suspect that the Libyan Desert is partially responsible, for the past four years I have been travelling there with my good friend Andras Zboray, assisting him with his search for undiscovered rock art sites. The Libyan desert is an uninhabited area the size of India and one of the phrases I have used to try and describe it to my naturally curious friends is, 'It's the second biggest wilderness on the planet." I guess there is only so many times you can say something like that before your mind starts lingering over the subject of the biggest wilderness on the planet, the Antarctic."
Far from taking it easy after her Antarctic adventure, Hannah returned to England to a full on sail training programme in preparation for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. In September 2005 Hannah set sail from Liverpool as a Watchleader aboard Glasgow Clipper. She raced with the fleet from Liverpool to Cascais in Portugal,Salvador in Brazil,Durban, Fremantle and Singapore. Half way through the next leg to China the boats were diverted to The Philippines with major keel issues and the race was delayed for two months for a rebuild.
While the boats were being rebuilt, Hannah and her partner David Pryce returned to his home in Australia and bought the 20m aluminium expedition schooner Blizzard. They formed a high latitude sailing company Blizzard Expeditions and eventually did not return to the Clipper Race. With Blizzard Hannah and David spent three years circumnavigating Antarctica, visiting all of the sub-Antarctic Islands, the Antarctic peninsula, the west and southern coasts of Chile and Argentina and the Magnetic South Pole.
In 2006 Hannah returned to the Antarctic interior and set a world speed record for the journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. From that time on she has worked full time as a polar guide and consultant, completing full coast to South Pole expeditions a total of five times now, also kiting expeditions on Greenland and a solo attempt on the North Pole in 2008 that ended with a dislocated shoulder. She has skied to the South Pole more times than anyone in history and continues to do so year after year. She smiles and says "Once that little piece of your heart freezes solid, there's no thawing out again for all the world, and there's no point fighting it, you're hooked on Antarctica for good."
She is now a partner in her own company Expeditions365 conducting polar training and guiding from her home base on the Hardangervidda in Norway.