(Correne Coetzer, Emma's interview was originally published on pythom.com)
This past Antarctica season we had only one lady skier doing a full route to the South Pole. She skied the 1130 km from Hercules Inlet in 59 days. "Antarctica is challenging, brutal and unforgiving,” Emma told Pythom/Explorersweb. "Unless you do it, it would be hard to comprehend the actual pulling weight of the sled in the wind, miles of upward slog, the cold, the impact of lots of fresh snow and white-outs, the level of discipline needed, the post rest 'shunts' and even the process of rewarming when tired."
She was on the ice when fellow skier, Henry Worsley died. Emma expressed her feelings, "Henry would have invested every ounce of himself that goes beyond the heart and the soul into his expedition - so with that appreciation, to hear the news; I can't put my thoughts and feelings into words."
Her expedition was what she expected, on the one hand, and on the other hand, not what she expected, says Emma. Furthermore, she has future plans to ski solo to the South Pole, but then she plans to follow another strategy and make some practical alterations. Here go the details:
Pythom/Exweb: How are you? Congratulations with your South Pole expedition. Well done girl! Phew, what a journey!
Emma: I am extremely well and would do it all again at a moments notice but I sadly have to wait until October. Absolutely loved it and missing Antarctica already.
Pythom/Exweb: How is life after the South Pole?
Emma: It's great but very unsettling as I have had so many people congratulating me, messages of admiration and praise - something that I don't think that I am worthy of and definitely not used to. But friends, family and strangers have been super excited about the expedition and journey undertaken, which is brilliant and something that I am very thankful for.
Pythom/Exweb: Fortunately you have another goal, the solo.
Emma: Yes, and uber excited about it. The solo was always meant to be and has been on my radar from the start. My initial training plans for the coming months include LEJOG (running the length of UK) and GTC (in Canada) - so it's all very exciting and I have a busy few months ahead to fit everything in.
Pythom/Exweb: Was the expedition what you have expected it to be?
Emma: Yes and no.
I went in expecting lots of unknown challenges and hard work as there always is with these sort of expeditions. The mental challenge was there to a degree, but I also know my stubborn self really well and know that I enjoy pushing boundaries and experiencing the unknown.
I am really looking forward to the solo as this will give me the ultimate physical and mental challenge that I am looking for. Although, I have to say that the wide range of 'experiences' and barriers presented throughout this one, has counteracted many of the potential fears when undertaking a solo.
However, what I didn't appreciate before was the pure beauty of Antarctica and how the landscape changes moment by moment. I haven't experienced anything like it before and can't wait to go back. Sadly photos don't seem to capture it.
Pythom/Exweb: You said, when you do your solo in future, you will change some things? What will you change? Do different?
Emma: Going solo in October will be a completely different ball game and the strategy used to ski to the Pole will look very different.
The solo route will be longer, unsupported and unassisted and therefore the training, planning, preparation and strategy will be tailored accordingly. I know that I will really have to monitor and ensure that I 'reign in' and pace myself and not let the excitement take president.
The practical alterations that I was talking about before are personal alterations to kit that would suit my needs better. Such as different style and make of gloves (my hands got regularly cold on this expedition), finding a different trouser to protect the legs more, finding a robust watch (with alarm) that doesn't stop working in the sub -30 temperatures, more polar friendly down skirt, finding the best flask to keep hot water in Antarctica, sorting out my gait and insoles so that I can wear my skis on the right foot, finding a non energy consuming phone and an uber powerful but light battery charger; the list goes on.
A lot of this requires research and testing before I head out there in October, so I need to find solutions quickly. If any company think that they have a solution, it would be great if they could get in touch.
Pythom/Exweb: I’m sure you must have heard about the unfortunate death of Henry Worsley when you were on route. How did you feel when you heard that, being there?
Emma: Although I didn't get the full story until I was back at the base camp [Union Glacier], hearing that Henry had died was shocking and I was very upset for Henry and his family, who we had been following through the scheduled updates.
Antarctica is challenging, brutal and unforgiving. From a distance it would be easy to look at photographs and see blue sky, flat lands and smiles. Similar to a professional dancer, musician or road worker, the end polished product is very different to the hidden journey and reality of the many arduous hours of hard work to get there.
Unless you do it, it would be hard to comprehend the actual pulling weight of the sled in the wind, miles of upward slog, the cold, the impact of lots of fresh snow and white-outs, the level of discipline needed, the post rest 'shunts' and even the process of rewarming when tired. Henry would have invested every ounce of himself that goes beyond the heart and the soul into his expedition - so with that appreciation, to hear the news; I can't put my thoughts and feelings into words. Henry is a hero and an inspiration and I hope his family is ok.
Pythom/Exweb: Seems you got quite serious polar-thigh, chilblains, on your upper legs. Did the condition improve after ANI/ALE dropped you a medical kit? What was in the kit and how did you use it?
Emma: Yes, I had polar thigh. I was really pleased that I was taking the supported (rather than unsupported) option this time as this was one of those 'It won't happen to me but now it has' situations. We had a full medical kit and enough supplies for polar thigh but having more in reserve was a good security blanket.
We halted the polar thigh with steroid ointment and dressings - key to this was early intervention, regular maintenance and excellent direction from the ALE medical team. On the flip side, this, along with other situations, was great experience and preparation ahead of the unsupported and unassisted solo expedition in October. I know what I will have more of in my first aid kit!
Pythom/Exweb: Your three top tips to someone who wants to ski a full route to the South Pole?
1. Be honest about your capabilities, limitations and experience - consider the benefits of a guide first time (of the solo females (or anyone) - and ask yourself how many went with a guide first?).
2. Training is important as is putting on the pounds before you go.
3. Be prepared for the unexpected - every year and degree is different - better or worse.
Pythom/Exweb: What were your three favorite items in your sled?
Emma: This time: Hand warmers, Rab down jacket and iPod. It will be interesting to review this list after the alterations and next trip.
Pythom/Exweb: Anything else?
Emma: I am now very focused on the Solo expedition in October and would be delighted to hear from companies and sponsors, who would like to support the solo expedition. Please contact me on emtamtrekking(at)gmail.com.
I would also like to thank everyone for their support so far. ALE has been amazing from start to finish, they are a fantastic crew and team who really wanted me to realize my dream. Thanks go to Carl and Pachi (guides) who imparted lots of information which will be instrumental for the solo attempt. I would also like to thank my family and friends who continue to support my adventures and provided much support and encouragement throughout.
Finally, many thanks go to the unmet people such as you Correne and strangers who check in, send messages of encouragement and who have been on the virtual journey with me. Thank you and I hope that everyone will join me again on the solo expedition.
Finally, this was a life dream come true and one that I skied for my inspiration and late father. Many say that they wish they could do the same. I hope that I have shown that if I can do it, so can they; and if there is a will then there is always a way as life is too short to do anything else.
Emma Tamsin Kelty Statistics:
Start date: December 5, 2015
End date: February 1, 2016
Resupplied (assisted), no kites or cars (unsupported)
Guided by Carl Avery from 80ºS to 88ºS and from 88ºS to 90ºS by Pachi Ibarra (both guiding for ANI)
Last skiers arrived at the South Pole
South Pole skier, Henry Worsley, passed away
AdventureStats.com (for polar Statistics and Rules of Adventure)
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