“It’s Pretty Special”: Jade Hameister on Setting a Route to the South Pole Where No Human Has Gone Before

©Jade Productions Pty Ltd 2018

POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of September to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — abardas@valmorgan.com.au.

Jade Hameister has ticked a lot off of her bucket list. At the age of 16, Hameister became the youngest person in history to complete the Polar Hat Trick, which entails skiing to the North Pole, completing the Greenland Crossing and skiing to the South Pole.

At 13, Hameister decided she wanted to ski to the South Pole but after finding out that you had to be at least 16 years old to complete this expedition, she set her sights on a new goal. “I was a bit disappointed,” Hameister told POPSUGAR Australia. “So we sat down and worked out what we could do in the meantime.”

From here, Hameister and her father turned their attention first to the North Pole and Greenland. The now 20-year-old says while the Greenland Crossing and South Pole expeditions were longer and harder, the North Pole experience was tough as it was her first expedition of that nature.

“It probably was one of the hardest because I had no idea what I was doing,” Hameister said. “I only had experience from a training camp we did in New Zealand, so I was way out of my depth.”

Despite her determination to complete the Hat Trick, there were several tough moments during the expeditions, especially during the South Pole experience which took 47 days and consisted of cross-country skiing and pulling sleds.

In this particular journey, Hameister and her team were the first humans on foot to traverse the Transantarctic Mountains via the Kansas Glacier. “It’s quite difficult to explain what it was like to be on ground that no one’s ever been to before, but it’s pretty special and I felt very lucky,” said Hameister.

Three years on from this incredible achievement, life looks a little different for Hameister. She’s currently completing a university degree in commerce and global studies and her passion lies firmly on climate change. After witnessing the melting polar ice with her very own eyes, Hameister is inspired to lend her voice to the conversation and urge businesses and political parties to get involved.

We were lucky enough to speak to Hameister for our POPSUGAR Unstoppable series to learn how Hameister has and is changing the game for adventurers — particularly for young people interested in following her footsteps.

POPSUGAR Australia: Hi Jade! Now, this is a big question, but could you tell us a bit about the three expeditions you completed to accomplish the Polar Hat Trick?

I decided that it was something that I wanted to do when I was 13. The original goal was to just do the South Poleso my dad took me on a training camp to New Zealand for about seven days. It involved learning how to ski and polar travel survival skills so that we were somewhat ready for the South Pole expedition.

And then a little while after the training camp, we learned that you have to actually be 16 to do the South Pole expedition and I was 13 at the time. I was a bit disappointed, so we sat down and worked out what we could do in the meantime and if it was still what I wanted to do when I turned 16.

That’s when we came up with the North Pole and Greenland expeditions. So then, at 14, the year after that training camp, we skied to the North Pole. That was 11 days, 150 kilometres on skis, pulling sleds, sleeping in tents. It was very much the introduction to the following two expeditions, which were going to be bigger and harder.

It probably was one of the hardest trips because I had no idea what I was doing. I only had experience from the training camp we did in New Zealand, so I was way out of my depth. Then, the year after, just before my 16th birthday, we skied across Greenland, from the west coast to the east coast.

It was about 540 kilometres over 37 days, also skiing and pulling sleds. But this one was land-based compared with the North Pole, where we were challenged by open water leads and compression zones. Whereas with Greenland, the threats were polar bears and crevasses so it was a whole new ballpark.

The following year, when I was 16, we skied to the South Pole, which was like the mother of all the expeditions and we planned to do that via a new route from the coast, so we were skiing through the Transantarctic Mountains, up the Kansas Glacier, where no humans had been to on foot before, and then over the polar plateau to the South Pole.

I’d say that was definitely the most exciting trip of them all, the biggest of them all, at 47 days, again on skis, pulling sleds. We did it unsupported and unassisted, which means we didn’t use any man-made vehicles and we didn’t receive any supply drops along the way. We carried everything that we needed for the whole 47 days in our sleds.

The best part of the expedition was the unexplored part. It’s quite difficult to explain what it was like to be on ground that no one’s ever been to before, but it’s pretty special.

PS: What inspired you to complete these expeditions?

JH: I was born into a very adventurous family. I grew up watching my dad, who climbed a lot of mountains, including Everest when I was younger. We would do little adventures as a family such as Mount Kosciuszko, which is the highest mountain in Australia, when I was six and my brother was four.

We then did Everest Base Camp when I was 12 and my brother was 10. On our trip to Everest Base Camp, we were trekking with an expedition aiming to reach the summit so there were a lot of experienced climbers we got to spend a lot of time with.

I made a couple of good friends along the way, including an Icelandic lady who had previously skied to the South Pole. Hearing her stories and her experiences rubbed off on me a bit and inspired me to start thinking about my own polar journey. Not long after that trip, I brought it up with mum and dad. And I was like, this is something that I really want to do. How can we do it?

PS: How did you keep going on these trips when things felt hard and you were tired and cold?

JH: There were hard moments on all the trips but particularly on the South Pole expedition. I remember most days, I would end up in the tent in tears. Just because it was so hard and so cold — we had days of minus 50 degrees. Our guide, who’s been guiding in extreme conditions for over 25 years, said that it was the toughest weather conditions he’d experienced.

I’d put in so much effort from years of other expeditions to training that I didn’t really give myself the option to quit. I know that’s easier said than done, but I feel like I just put in so much work to get to that point that, by the time that I would actually quit, it wouldn’t have been worth it anyway.

We were also travelling with an ex-Special Forces soldier, and now a good friend of mine, Heath. He was on the expedition as camera assistant for NatGeo, carrying some of the heavier camera gear. I spent a lot of time by his side on the expedition.

Hearing his way of coping with pain and suffering was life-changing, I guess. The tricks taught me were as simple as smiling when you’re in pain, just smiling and seeing how that changes how you feel about the pain, or closing your eyes and pushing for another 30 seconds and seeing how far you can really go. I learned most of what I know now about pain and suffering, not only by putting myself in those conditions but also from the conversations that I had with him, which is really special.

PS: What has been your focus since completing the Polar Hatrick?

JH: I’m currently at university studying commerce and global studies. After the South Pole expedition, I had to complete year 12 and it was very difficult coming back from those conditions and then having to sit in the classroom.

Since then, my focus has just been my studies. I’m still trying to spread my messages where I can in terms of inspiring young women and also with a focus on climate change. In the future, I’d definitely love to do another adventure.

PS: How can the next generation get involved in the fight against climate change?

JH: Change must happen within the next 10 years at a high level in governments and policy. I think individuals need to push governments and world leaders to make those changes. As long as individuals are doing the right thing and making the right choices, I think the leaders will be forced to follow.

I wasn’t really passionate about climate change until I started going on these expeditions and seeing its effects firsthand, which is why I want to share my experiences with other people who might not have had the opportunity to experience the things I have.

PS: What is your hope for the future?

JH: My plan is to finish my degree in the next two or so years, and hopefully travel somewhere in between if COVID permits. I’m also very passionate about making a difference in the climate area. I hope to make change at a business level, who is why I chose to study commerce as well.

It’s constantly in the back of my mind, and the thing that I’m most passionate about at the moment.

To read more about Jade Hameister’s expeditions, grab yourself a copy of her book, My Polar Dream.

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