(Tina Sjogren) The fastest unsupported South Pole skier in the world at one point, and still the fastest woman (just short of 40 days) Hannah McKeand has basically made Antarctica her home since first stepping on the ice ten years ago.
Once tourmanager for the Watermill Theatre in Newbury U.K., at 31 Hannah McKeand decided to drop everything, mortgage the house and go exploring.
In 2001 she travelled across the Western Desert on the borders of Egypt, Libya and Sudan; a few years later she hiked across Afghanistan.
The winding path finally led to Antarctica, where Hannah arrived for the first - but far from last - time in 2004. She went to sea for a while; sailing from England to Brazil, Durban, Fremantle, Singapore and the Philippines, and then launched
Blizzard Expeditions with a partner, exploring the Southern Ocean regions including Antarctica all the way down to Cape Horn.
Finally she returned to the ice and skied to the South Pole in record time.
Few explorers can rack up Hannah’s achievements, although not many know her name. Could be that mainstream adventure prizes went to folks like Richard Branson, who got the National Geographic award Hannah’s big year, for a one week tour on Baffin Island guided by Polar veteran Will Steger. (It didn't sit well with us at ExplorersWeb)
Fast forward ten years. Resident of Utah these days Hannah keeps returning to the ice every season. She takes her time, listening to old classics like Dickens, Hardy and Tolstoy. Skiing to the South Pole has become her dayjob, one that she enjoys. “Somehow, no matter how many times I have crossed it, I still end up with the feeling that I haven’t seen it at all,” she told Explorersweb in 2012.
Last week we checked in with her again, for a few final words to close the latest South Pole spell. Here goes.
Explorersweb: Hi there Hannah, you are just back from the South Pole - what were the highlights this season?
Hannah: The highlight for me every season at the moment is running the amazing Emperor Penguin Camp at Gould Bay. These are such magnificent creatures and endlessly interesting and entertaining to look at.
Explorersweb: We lost Henry, any thoughts around it and any idea why the sudden collapse?
Hannah: I can't comment on this one, I wasn't involved and don't know any of the details.
Explorersweb: How many times have you been on Antarctica by now?
Hannah: This was my 11th season on Antarctica, wow, how did that happen!?
Explorersweb: With all your experience, could you please name 5-7 top products you can't live without on the ice that could also come handy back home?
1. Crazy Creek Chair - Anyone who has ever experienced any kind of back discomfort will appreciate having one of these brilliant, light and simple back supports with them on a long expedition. Is a tremendous relief when relaxing in a tent in the evening.
2. GSI Fairshare Mug - I love these wide based food mugs with their screw on lids and handle, a great option for mixing up your freeze dried meals, especially if, like me, you like to get rid of all the packaging in advance.
3. Dream Essentials Sweet Dreams Eyemask - I love these ergonomically designed eyemasks that allow high quality REM sleep by not pressing on your eyelids and blocking out all the light.
4. Alpine Cuisine 3l Stainless Stell Tea Kettle - My preference is always to take a kettle out camping rather than a pot. It makes for easier, safer pouring and reduces steam in the tent, which is the enemy of winter camping.
5. Hestra Falt Guide Glove - This is the ultimate guide glove for me. They are warm and the removable liner makes them easier to dry. Plus the box shaped fingertips makes them extremely dextrous.
6. MSR Whisperlite Stove - The best performing stove in polar environments. Period.
7. Delorme Inreach - Remote communications have never been so easy. The Inreach is affordable to everyone and useful for every kind of trip from a hike in Yellowstone to a ski expedition to the North Pole.
Explorersweb: Any dream project you would still like to do on the ice?
Hannah: Still want to ski solo to the North Pole, but raising the money for that trip seems unlikely at this point.
Explorersweb: What's next for you this year?
Hannah: Back home to Salt Lake City for a summer of rock climbing, trail running and whatever work I can't avoid!
Explorersweb: You made an offer on Silver Bullet (our airstream), what did you plan to do with it?
Hannah: I wanted to make it into my roadtrip palace! For climbing trips and desert time.
Explorersweb: How's your adopted dog?
Hannah: He is awesome, acing his job as man's best friend!
Best of ExplorersWeb 2007 Awards: The fastest trek - Hannah McKeand, South Pole
Hannah did it! South Pole has a new Speed Record
ExWeb interview Hannah McKeand, “Focus on yourself as an animal”
AdventureStats: Antarctica 2011/12
ExWeb leaving the National Geographic Best of Adventure Awards