Meet Jade, a po­lar ex­plorer at just 14

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

From the North Pole to Green­land and all the way to the frozen wastes of the South Pole, Mel­bourne teenager Jade Hameister is set­ting out to achieve a goal that will, quite lit­er­ally, take her to the edges of the earth, writes Bev­er­ley Had­graft.

JADE HAMEISTER WAS 13 when she sat down to her usual family din­ner and made an an­nounce­ment: she wanted to be­come the youngest per­son ever to ski to the North Pole. It was some­thing she’d been dream­ing about for the past year, she said, and since the dream wouldn’t go away, she wanted to see if she could make it a re­al­ity.

Most par­ents would prob­a­bly have laughed and told Jade to fin­ish her veg­eta­bles. Luck­ily for Jade, she doesn’t have most par­ents. Her dad, Paul, im­me­di­ately be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing how to make it hap­pen.

“If your kids have a dream, it’s im­por­tant to take ac­tion and find out if they can do it,” he says. “It’s bet­ter to have a crack and fail than to run away in case things don’t work out, be­cause you’re go­ing to learn so much more from that.”

In her school uni­form at her home in Hamp­ton, Vic­to­ria, laugh­ing away like any other teenager, it’s hard to imag­ine Jade scal­ing three-me­tre ice boul­ders and drag­ging a 50kg sled across that frozen waste. Hav­ing sur­vived the North Pole, she will add a 540km trek across Green­land and ski­ing to the South Pole next year, mak­ing her one of the few peo­ple ever to com­plete the ‘po­lar tri­fecta’.

Jade, who turned 15 this month, is do­ing this, she says, to in­spire other teens. “I want to re­mind them to look up from their smart­phones and not for­get what a beau­ti­ful world we have; to be ac­tive, have ad­ven­tures and to chase their dreams.”

Hope­fully, Paul will in­spire a few par­ents as well, as he ac­com­pa­nies her. He has been stok­ing Jade’s fur­nace of courage her whole life, teach­ing her the dif­fer­ence be­tween ir­ra­tional and ra­tio­nal fears, and to have a crack. These are les­sons, he be­lieves, that are par­ents’ to teach and too im­por­tant to be del­e­gated to schools.

Jade’s po­lar dream first took root after a family trek with her mum, Vanessa, younger brother Kane, 13, and her dad to Ever­est Base Camp. She met a young wo­man there who had skied the South Pole solo. “It sounded in­cred­i­ble,” Jade re­calls.

“Adventure is the thing I love most – get­ting out­doors and chal­leng­ing my­self – and this seemed like the ex­treme of the ex­treme. To do it at my age would be an achieve­ment that would be with me for ever. I knew it was go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly hard, but it was there and in reach.”

She and her dad be­gan an ex­treme fit­ness reg­i­men that in­cluded cross­fit – at her peak, Jade was squat­ting with 80kg across her shoul­ders – drag­ging tyres along the beach, plus a crash course in cross-coun­try ski­ing.

The week be­fore their de­par­ture, Paul felt un­well. The night be­fore, the pain was so ex­cru­ci­at­ing, he went to hospi­tal. It was a large kid­ney stone and he needed surgery. He had it im­me­di­ately, woke up from the gen­eral anaes­thetic at 5.30pm and was on his way to the air­port at 7pm.

He had a plas­tic stent from his kid­ney to his blad­der. It was only meant to be in for seven days. He had it for four weeks and it cal­ci­fied so that the sur­face was like rough coral and carved up his body’s in­ter­nal tubes un­til he uri­nated blood. “But there was no way I was go­ing to let my daugh­ter down,” he says.

He skied be­hind her, partly to make sure she was okay and partly so she couldn’t see him winc­ing. “Ev­ery day, I’d find my­self look­ing at the back of this in­cred­i­ble, com­mit­ted young

wo­man and think­ing, ‘I want this vi­sion im­printed on my mem­ory for ever.’”

“That’s love,” Jade says when she re­counts her ver­sion of this. “He kept say­ing, ‘For­get about me. I’m just the one pulling bags at the back.’”

What were her favourite mo­ments of the 11-day trek? “The best was ac­tu­ally reach­ing the Pole. It was weird, my stom­ach kind of dropped. I couldn’t get my head around the fact I was stand­ing on the top of the world.”

And then it’s hard not to laugh when she adds, “Another best bit was get­ting into the tent in the evening, eat­ing Pringles and putting the stove on, which was prob­a­bly very dan­ger­ous for a 14-year-old!”

She loved the sur­real white land­scape and spot­ting po­lar bear foot­prints. “That was cool, al­though I’d have freaked out if I’d seen a bear.” She loved be­ing just four peo­ple out in that great white wilder­ness – guide Eric Philips and cam­era­man Pet­ter Nyquist joined them – and she loved snug­gling into her 40cmthick sleep­ing bag at night, fall­ing into the kind of deep slum­ber that only those who’ve worked re­ally hard for it can know.

“When it was over, I was re­ally sad,” she re­calls. “Eric had said to me one lunch­break, ‘You know, there’s this thing called the po­lar bug and if you get home and des­per­ately want to be back, I think you might have that.’

“I said, ‘I’m miss­ing it al­ready and I haven’t left yet!’ I don’t know why I want to be back there, freez­ing my arse off, eat­ing de­hy­drated meals and push­ing my­self that hard. I just loved it.”

And speak­ing of freez­ing her arse off, the only thing that got her down, she says, was go­ing to the toi­let.

“It’s some­thing you take for granted and, sud­denly, there’s all this has­sle and cold.” She got frost­nip (early frost­bite) on her hands and bot­tom as a re­sult and ad­mits it was the only time she wept, but that just made things worse – even tears freeze at the North Pole.

In­ter­est­ingly, it was the train­ing that Jade found tough­est. It had to be un­com­fort­able, to pre­pare her for what she was go­ing to en­dure. “I had these thoughts that maybe I’d been too cocky and thought I could do some­thing I couldn’t,” she says.

“But I worked on my weak­nesses. That’s some­thing Dad taught me. When I was younger and did my first open-wa­ter swim in a triathlon, I pan­icked, but Dad took me to the beach and we worked on try­ing to get me comfy swim­ming in the ocean. I kept burst­ing into tears, sit­ting on the beach, go­ing out, burst­ing into tears – but even­tu­ally I just swam and now the swim is my favourite leg.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask Mum and Dad how they can let me ski the North Pole, but as Mum says, she’s let me go to school camp with a ran­dom bus driver and camp in­struc­tors we don’t know. On the North Pole, I was with three men she knew and who knew what they were do­ing.”

It’s clear that Paul and Vanessa are a great com­bi­na­tion. Vanessa is the home­maker, the safe sanc­tu­ary and com­forter when things get tough.

Paul is one of only a few Aus­tralians to have climbed the Seven Sum­mits, in­clud­ing Ever­est. He is also a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, yet it’s clear his value sys­tem has noth­ing to do with ma­cho ego and ev­ery­thing to do with family val­ues, and not leav­ing his chil­dren’s self-es­teem to the whims of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. He is also cur­rently mak­ing plans for an adventure with their son, Kane.

So how do you find that line be­tween giv­ing your chil­dren wings and not push­ing or bul­ly­ing them? “I’m very con­scious of mak­ing sure that what we’re do­ing is about the kids and not look­ing vi­car­i­ously for our own self-es­teem through their achieve­ments,” Paul says.

“But I do think our cul­ture has be­come too pro­tec­tive of our chil­dren. If it rains, we tell them to come in­side, if they don’t like their food, we get them some­thing else to eat… that’s not how life works. Peo­ple who are good at life know how to push through hard­ship.”

Paul will fin­ish the po­lar tri­fecta with Jade, al­though he’s so im­pressed with how she han­dled this year’s trip he thinks she’d be fine with­out him as long as Eric and Pet­ter are sup­port­ing her.

Hear­ing this, Jade’s smile dis­ap­pears for the first time.

“It was a re­ally spe­cial thing to do with my dad,” she says. “I’m so happy I got to share it with him. If

Dad wasn’t there, I don’t know if I’d want to do it.”


With the North Pole con­quered, Jade Hameister

has Green­land and the South Pole in her sights.

Clock­wise from top left: Jade in her tent and with her dad on the trek; Jade and her mum, Vanessa; with The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly’s writer Bev­er­ley Had­graft; in train­ing for the trek on the beach; and with her guide, Eric Philips.

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