Tuesday, 13 November 2007

North Pole record attempt by former Watchet woman

ADVENTURER Hannah McKeand, who was brought up in Watchet, is to try to become the first woman to ski alone and unsupported to the North Pole.
Hannah, aged 34, whose mother Julian Burbury still lives in the town, last year set a record as the fastest person to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole.
Now, she has her sights set on an Arctic record which she will attempt in February of next year.
She plans to ski the 415 miles over shifting ice from Ward Hunt Island, on the northern coast of Canada, to the North Pole, alone and without support in 60 days.
Hannah, who now lives in Newbury, Berkshire, would also become only the second solo and unsupported person ever to complete the epic journey.
British explorer Pen Hadow is the only other person to have made it, making three attempts before he was successful in 2003.
Hannah said: “Although the distance is shorter than the South Pole route, the expedition is much tougher.
“The terrain is extremely rough and the ice drifts away from the Pole, so it is rather like being on a conveyor belt and your legs cover a lot more distance than you are moving forward.
“I have huge respect for the environment that I will be immersed in.
“There are many risks to be assessed and managed and a lot of elements that are simply beyond one’s control.
“But I think with proper planning and preparation I have a good chance of success.
“I have spent several weeks training on the Arctic Ocean and I feel very motivated to get cracking, it is a fantastic place.”
Hannah said part of her success with polar expeditions was due to her physical make-up, being 6 ft 2 in tall and well-built.
She said: “I am able to gain significant weight before an expedition while at the same time reaching the necessary levels of fitness.
“This gives me a tremendous advantage in the polar environment. I am well insulated and able to travel on fewer calories than other lighter skiers.
“In addition to my physical make up, I have developed a solid mental approach to these expeditions.
“You have to be very driven, but at the same time, calm and methodical. I never feel more alive than I do alone in a huge icy wilderness.”
Hannah is one of the most experienced long distance skiers in the world and shares her experiences with people by giving talks to schools and corporate events, where she also spreads the environmental message on global warming.
She said: “Who better to talk about the deterioration of our ice caps than those of us who regularly spend time there and witness it first hand.
“Global warming is real and we have to act now. The environment is the responsibility of each and every one of us and I feel a responsibility to spread the word and encourage ordinary folk to get involved.”
Hannah is looking for sponsors to work with on her Polar record bid instead of funding the adventure herself as she has in the past.
She said: “It just seems like the right time. On the back of my new world record I really have something tangible to offer a sponsor.
“With my growing profile, it feels like I can make a really valuable contribution to a corporate relationship. I’ve never been interested in a free ride. I want to work with a company and feel like I am helping them achieve something.
“Apart from the more conventional sponsorship benefits such as brand placement and endorsement by somebody in my field, it would also be great to find a sponsorship relationship where my supporter has similar concerns and we could develop something together, maybe a schools tour and education programme or a corporate tour to encourage other companies to embrace their social responsibilities.”
Hannah and her partner David Pryce have also founded a new high latitude sailing company called Blizzard Expeditions to take people on explorations of the Southern Ocean regions.
More information about Hannah’s expeditions can be found on the website http://www.adventurehannah.com/, and more about Blizzard Expeditions is available at http://www.blizzardexpeditions.com/.
  • Hannah is pictured on a trip to the Antarctic. Photo submitted.

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