Thursday, 20 March 2008

Hannah making steady progress in North Pole solo record attempt

EXPLORER Hannah McKeand was this week making steady progress in her bid to become the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the North Pole.
Hannah, aged 34, who was raised in Watchet, where her mother Julian Burbury still lives, had travelled about 30 nautical miles north almost a fortnight into the expedition.
Although she still has around another 386 nautical miles to cover in about 46 days, her operations manager Steve Jones said the first section of the route was especially difficult and exceptionally small mileages were normal.
Mr Jones said Hannah’s progress so far was not an indication of how far she would be able to travel in a day later on.
In her log of the adventure, Hannah reported travelling barely two to three nautical miles in an eight-hour day, and on her worst day she had managed just 1.5 miles in seven-and-a-half hours.
However, Hannah said: “It might be tough terrain out here and the temperature is sitting at around the -45 degree mark, but I am experiencing the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets that give me beautiful pink skies most of the day.
“Against the white snow, this makes for stunning scenery and I am loving it out here.”
As well as the extreme cold, which at one point caused a tent pole to shatter, Hannah has had to cope with flat light and poor visibility, including a complete ‘white out’ which meant she kept bumping into things she would normally have found her way around.
On top of the weather conditions, there have been huge pressure ridges to negotiate and the constant movement and cracking of the ice, and several times she has had to risk stepping down to sea level and trusting her weight to refrozen sea water.
On her satellite phone, Hannah described laying awake at night and listening to the ice cracking and groaning around her.
The extreme conditions have caused wear and tear on her equipment and she has already had to carry out some running repairs.
It has also caused her to fall several times, and on one occasion in poor visibility she fell and injured her shoulder.
Although the plan was to ski most of the way, Hannah has found that she has made better progress wearing snow shoes.
Hannah’s progress can be followed on the website

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