Celebrating International Women’s Day with the youngest person to ski to the North Pole
When most teenagers girls are busy stressing about their grades, boys and navigating their way through puberty, one girl has been busy kicking goals in the form of becoming the youngest person (male or female) to ski to the North Pole from 150-kilometres out.
At 14-years-old Jade Hameister completed what was meant to be a 21 day journey in just 11 days, trekking 150-kilometres in what was the beginning of her almost inconceivably larger goal of being the youngest person in history to complete the “polar hat-trick”.
That being the North Pole trek which Jade completed in April 2016 , crossing the Greenland glacier which she is preparing to undertake in April 2017, and then continuing on later this year in December to trek the South Pole.
Add to this the fact that she was the recipient of the Australian Geographic Society's Young Adventurer of the Year 2016 medal and has given numerous inspirational speeches including one especially poignant TEDxMelbourne talk, encouraging young girls - to expect and be more for themselves than otherwise might be expected of them in today’s society.
So we thought who better to talk to this International Women’s Day 2017 than Jade herself, just ahead of her polar hat-trick's Greenland Crossing:
When you first decided you wanted to tackle the North Pole, did you experience any backlash? Were people mostly supportive or sceptical?
Most of the feedback that I received was positive and i received lots of support but I remember when I was in Longyearbyen before I started the expedition I received a few messages online that said I was probably going to die if I tried. It didn’t really affect me to be honest, with the other support that I had and the goal that I was working towards it didn’t really bother me.
What was the most challenging part of the first expedition, besides the obvious physical test, that perhaps you didn’t expect to be as tough as it was?
The physical side of it was fine we trained well for that part. But I think because i hadn’t done anything like this before and didn’t have any experience in dealing with the intense pain and suffering from the cold. My hands were aching all day and we were taking long breaks.
Then I also had issues also with going to the toilet in the cold, it’s so hard for a girl out there but I learnt so much about that on this expedition that I can take that learning on the next two expeditions. The issues I had with going to the toilet, Mont are providing the improved gear for the next one, they’re redesigning the shelf-hand so that it makes it easier for me to go to the toilet.
Since completing the North Pole expedition, you’re now tackling the Greenland Crossing and South Pole. Talk me through the preparation that’s going into those expeditions.
This time the trips are a bit longer and there’s not as many compression zones. In our training we’re doing a lot more endurance. So in terms of training we’re doing three strength based sessions a week and two long endurance sessions on the weekend. We’ll go down to the steps at Sandy Beach and we’ll climb those something like 20 times. Then on a Sunday we’ll go down to the beach and pull a tire.
When you’re on the beach pulling a tire are people confused, what’s their reaction?
I mean we try to go when people aren’t there. But when people have seen me training they’ll stop and ask what I’m training for. The response is usually something along the lines of ‘wow’. To be honest I don’t think they really understand what it’s about when they first hear me explain it. I don’t think they understand what challenges I’m going to face in Greenland, the South Pole or the North Pole and everything that goes with [training for those challenges.]
What motivates and drives you to train hard and take on such a monumental challenge?
I think for me these trips are massive adventures and I really like adventure. To do these adventures you need to train and you need to train hard. I think the training is just part of the process and you just need to get it done. I kind of do enjoy training as well because I know that it’s going to help me to achieve my goal and get to experience that adventure.
Can you describe why you think it’s important for young women to have intelligent, powerful and passionate females as role models?
I’ve been very lucky to meet and spend time with some amazing female role models, my mum being one of them. I also met a woman named Vila on a trip my family and I went on to Everest Base Camp a couple of years ago. She skied to the South Pole solo and she was my inspiration for thinking about my own pole journey and that was really important to me. I think when women see other women taking risks and focusing more on what they can do rather than on how they appear, we expand our beliefs of what is possible for ourselves to achieve.
To do something ‘like a girl’, what does that mean to you?
I think the term ‘like a girl’ should never be used as an insult towards boys. I just don’t agree with that. Boys and girls are obviously really different and we should celebrate those differences and acknowledge that both genders are valuable and have something unique to contribute. I’m proud to be a girl. To do something ‘like a girl’ really resonates with me and I use it as something to empower me.
Does the gravity of being the youngest female to take on these challenges scare you, how do you overcome any niggling doubts that might creep in?
If I can get there, I’ll be the youngest person, male or female, to do so. On the North Pole expedition I had a lot of doubts. For example on the helicopter ride to our starting point I looked around me and realised I was surrounded by big strong men and then there was me a 14-year-old girl and in that moment I felt a great deal of fear and self doubt. But I was still on a mission to achieve my goal and I obviously wasn’t prepared to let doubt get in my way.
Out of all of your achievements so far, what are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of my TedX talk and because that was an incredible experience and opportunity to share my message with the world. I definitely think that was my greatest achievement.
What advice would you give to any girl/woman thinking of taking on a similar expedition, or who are teetering on the edge of a new challenge and don’t know if they’ll be strong/smart/capable enough to take the plunge?
I would probably tell them to just get started and give it a go. To not wait until you think you’re perfect and 100 percent ready. With my experience I’d only been skiing once before skiing at the North Pole and that was kind of a big lesson for me, that you just have to give it a go and take some risks. The motto that I’ve kind of used on my expedition and training is that, ‘Courage expands possibilities, and fear shrinks them’.
Finally what other travel adventures are on your bucket list for the future?
Part of the Greenland trip includes us being there during the best time to see the Northern Lights. That’s always been on my bucket list, and I only found out about the timing being right for us last week so that’s exciting. On the way back then we have to go through Iceland, and the night we stay in Iceland it’s actually going to be my birthday so Dad and I booked to stay at the Blue Lagoon. It looks incredible. Also in July we’re going to try and do Machu Picchu as a family.
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