Success for Willem and Hannah

Published on 13.01.2011 - One step at a time

The duo Willem ter Horst - Hannah McKeand made it to the South Pole on 11 January 2011. They needed 46 days and 8 hours to complete the trek.

The idea came up some days ago when Willem ter Horst was battling against the miles and the sastrugis in an almost total white out : how about arriving at the South Pole on 11-1-11? Although Hannah did not care too much about this plan (she said that it's always when one hurries at the end of a trek that injuries happen), Willem wanted to stick to what he had secretely decided...

That's why, notwithstanding Hannah's advices, they made themselves work extra hard during these last days : getting up earlier, marching longer legs, pausing less and shorter breaks, shorter nights too of course, etc.

But with the success at the end : touching the pole on that special date. Hrev are some excerpts of the arrival diary : "... Yesterday started with a decent night of sleep, although I haven't been able to get a good night of sleep in for a while. I am happy, maybe better said content, with 6 hours at the moment. I looked out the tent and at first glance it looked okay, there was litle wind. It looked bright enough, but with a full cloud cover it meant no contrast and thus one last whiteout to celebrate the expedition. The whiteout would last until we actually entered the polar complex. Lately I've been struggling in the first two hours of the day. My feet aren't in the best shape anymore and it takes about two hours to get used to the pain every morning, afterwards I can move around fairly okay. With 13.7 nm to get to the entrance to the polar complex and then another 2.5 nm to the actual pole we had a long day ahead of us. On the second march of the day it was my turn to lead again. Hannah wasn't impressed by my whiteout navigation skills and kept shouting correction to my heading. It drove me crazy, so far that I'd decided to stop and offer the navigation to her. She refused and this lead to a little stand off. She told me afterwards that she thinks I didn't try hard enough. I feel she never took enough time to explain how to use the fixed compass. I won't say I now mastered it, but since that little episode it's become pretty good. The downside is that the pegs on the compass bore holes in my chest when I use it correctly. It's not made for my size. After about five hours we saw our first sign of civilization. I thought I saw two wires of a weather balloon float over the snow, but it was hard to tell what it was. When I tried to grab them they kept moving away with the wind so I rushed after them. When I was finally close enough to catch them I found out that they weren't floating wires, but two sticks in the ground. Perception of depth and distance is extremely hard out here. On the same march we alsogot our first glimpse of the polar station, 6nm away. Regretfully we weren't allowed to approach directly, because then we would have to ski through some ongoing science experiments. Our designated route carried us 70° to the east first, and use a flagged road from there to enter the complex. This meant for two hours that we could see where we wanted to go, but we hardly came any closer. This was very frustrating. Finally something appeared on the horizon in tne direction we were heading. We first thought it was the Antenna that we were supposed to go around, but as we approached we saw people moving and we saw tents as well. We decided to extend our march until we reached the unknown group. It appeared to be an Irish film crew that was making a documentary about Tom Crean, who was on Scott's Expedition party. ... It was a great and pleasant surprise meeting that group, our first interaction with strangers in over a month. With the whisky making its way down to our legs we still had to move on. We had almost two more hours to go to the pole. Normally my speed would increase with such an incentive out there, but no longer. I could only manage my slow walk, that I'd bern managing for the previous 8 hours. There were no motivational sprints to be found anymore. We skied to the camp site and walked on another 20 minutes to the pole. We made it on 11-1-11, as I had wanted for the last week. We also made it on 11pm GMT, but that's not really important, since it's always eleven o'clock iin some time zone; 7:55pm Chilean time is what we were using...."


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