Adventurer Jade Hameis­ter: meet the 16-year-old ski­ing to the South Pole

Two down, one to go. School­girl adventurer Jade Hameis­ter has achieved so much in her 16 years – ski­ing to the North Pole and cross­ing the icy wilds of Green­land. Now, Su­san Hors­burgh re­veals she is ready for a po­lar hat-trick – ski­ing to the South Pole.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

For al­most a month, on skis nine hours a day, Jade Hameis­ter dragged an 80kg sled across the icy wilds of Green­land, ev­ery part of her body scream­ing with pain. She had per­sis­tent nose­bleeds, blis­ters on her feet, and the be­gin­nings of frost­bite on her back­side. Ev­ery mus­cle ached, yet she bat­tled on through some­times fe­ro­cious winds, at one stage climb­ing over the chaotic sur­face of a steep, slip­pery ice­fall, all the while haul­ing pre­cious sup­plies heav­ier than her­self.

“You just have to keep go­ing,” says Jade, back in her fam­ily’s bay­side Mel­bourne home af­ter be­com­ing the youngest woman to trek across Green­land, cov­er­ing 550km in 27 days. “Out there you have noth­ing, just that voice in­side your head – and you can ac­tu­ally learn from it if you lis­ten to it.”

That in­ner voice, which con­tin­u­ally told her to “just do it”, has be­come louder and more pow­er­ful the deeper she gets into her po­lar mis­sion. The goal? To be­come the youngest per­son in his­tory to pull off the po­lar hat-trick, ski­ing to the North Pole, cross­ing Green­land

(the world’s sec­ond-largest ice cap af­ter Antarc­tica), and ski­ing to the South Pole.

In April 2016, at the age of 14, Jade knocked off part one of her quest – an 11-day, 150km ex­pe­di­tion – be­com­ing the youngest per­son to ski to the North Pole from any­where out­side the last de­gree, then com­pleted the Green­land cross­ing this year on June 4, the day be­fore her 16th birth­day.

The records are nice, she says, but they are not her main motivation. So why do it? >>

“Be­cause it’s epic,” she says, “be­cause it’s some­thing that I love. As much as I can hate it at times, at the end you just want to be back there... It’s ad­ven­ture.”

Among the Green­land high­lights were breath­tak­ing sun­sets and one sur­real morn­ing when she and her team were en­veloped in low cloud, un­able to see a me­tre be­yond them. And de­spite the gru­elling con­di­tions, she rel­ished spend­ing hours on end with only her thoughts. At home, there are too many dis­trac­tions: “I don’t watch TV,” she says, “but so­cial me­dia is the killer for me.”

Jade’s dad, Paul, who joined her on the trip, along with a guide and a two-per­son Na­tional Ge­o­graphic cam­era team, wit­nessed an ex­tra­or­di­nary com­ing-of-age in his daugh­ter. “Kids of Jade’s gen­er­a­tion just don’t get the time to think,” says Paul, a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and only the 12th Aus­tralian to climb the Seven Sum­mits, in­clud­ing Ever­est. “There’s con­stant stim­u­la­tion – ev­ery minute there’s a bloody Snapchat com­ing through or some kind of ping on their phone. Just to watch your child move away from that in­flu­ence and into a raw en­vi­ron­ment where they’ve got to work out who they are and deal with real stuff is re­ally re­ward­ing.”

Like most teenagers, he says, Jade isn’t too re­cep­tive to parental ad­vice, but the cam­era as­sis­tant on the trip was Heath Jamieson, an ex-spe­cial forces of­fi­cer in the Aus­tralian Army who had served in Afghanistan, been shot through the neck and told he’d never walk again – pretty much the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of tough. He gave Jade some valu­able tips on en­durance.

“When he’s strug­gling, he’ll smile or make him­self laugh – and it works,” says Jade. “He’ll tell him­self that he’s strong and he can do it. He also takes him­self to an­other place and tries to for­get about ev­ery­thing.”

Jade had her own rev­e­la­tions as well. “You have that much time to think, you learn so much about your­self,” she says. “When I was strug­gling, I’d tell my­self to go a bit faster and a bit harder, even if I thought I was about to give up. You re­alise that what you once thought were your lim­its aren’t your lim­its – and then you re­alise there re­ally aren’t any lim­its.”

De­ter­mined to reach her goal and will­ing to suck up any hard­ship to get there, Jade has only grown in her fa­ther’s es­ti­ma­tion. “There’s no way I can look at Jade the same way any more be­cause on these ex­pe­di­tions she has to be an in­de­pen­dent, self-mo­ti­vated, equal team mem­ber – you can’t carry her be­cause you’re so busy strug­gling just to look af­ter your­self and sur­vive,” says Paul. “She would of­ten be quiet and you knew that she was dy­ing on the in­side, but not once did she com­plain.”

At night, the mer­cury dipped be­low -20 de­grees, but iron­i­cally it was the heat in Green­land that caused havoc. Jade and Paul wore gear de­signed to with­stand -100 de­gree cold, but day­time tem­per­a­tures hov­ered un­sea­son­ably around zero, which meant their feet sweated and blis­tered and the daily 25km treks were hard-go­ing. The heat also meant the ice had re­ceded at the start of the jour­ney and the team had to join forces to shut­tle each of their weighty sleds across more than a kilo­me­tre of dirt and rock be­fore they reached the ice, cost­ing them valu­able time.

The heat in Green­land, cou­pled with the ice break­ing up last year at the North Pole, has left Jade in no doubt about cli­mate change. “I’m a big be­liever,” says Jade, the fo­cus of a Na­tional Ge­o­graphic doc­u­men­tary that will chron­i­cle her Green­land and South Pole treks and her grow­ing un­der­stand­ing of global warm­ing. “Be­cause I’ve seen it first­hand, I know it’s hap­pen­ing.”

Jade has be­come a re­fresh­ing new role model for her gen­er­a­tion. In her TEDx talk last year, she im­plored fel­low young women to dream big and

“If some­one has a goal they should try to achieve it.”

to ig­nore so­ci­ety’s mes­sages “to be less – to eat less, to wear less, to be skin­nier, to shrink my am­bi­tions to fit in, to wait for my Prince Charm­ing to come and save me”.

“I feel like peo­ple are al­ways bring­ing girls down nowa­days, telling them they can’t, or they do some­thing ‘like a girl’ – and that’s sup­posed to be of­fen­sive,” she says. “If some­one has a goal they should try to achieve it, es­pe­cially young girls – and I think it’s im­por­tant to share that mes­sage.”

Ev­ery night in Green­land, thanks to a satel­lite mo­dem, Jade would send a photo and an In­sta­gram post home to keep fol­low­ers up to date with her progress. At the end of each day, she and her dad would shovel snow and melt it on a stove in their tent for three hours to make water, then it was din­ner, jour­nal writ­ing, and the all-im­por­tant call home to mum Vanessa and younger brother Kane in Mel­bourne.

For Vanessa, it was a chance to gauge her daugh­ter’s men­tal state, which is al­ways her num­ber one con­cern. Jade was in­vari­ably up­beat, but that didn’t stop the anx­i­ety. Af­ter a month of fit­ful sleep, con­stant phone check­ing and the daily worry, Vanessa could fi­nally re­lax when the other half of her fam­ily ar­rived home. “Even though I had a snor­ing hus­band be­side me, I could ac­tu­ally sleep,” she says, with a laugh. “I’m ab­so­lutely bro­ken. Very happy, but bro­ken.”

Pot­ter­ing in the kitchen while Jade talks to

The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly at the din­ing ta­ble, Vanessa pipes up when her daugh­ter fails to rule out a fu­ture crack at Ever­est. She re­minds her daugh­ter of the deal they made when the fam­ily trekked to Ever­est base camp when Jade was just 12 years old. “I said, ‘We’ll go as long as you don’t want to climb Mount Ever­est,’” says Vanessa – and so be­gins a bit of mi­nor moth­er­daugh­ter argy-bargy.

“Well, who knows?” replies Jade. “Maybe one day. Once I’m 18 I can do what I want.” Rul­ing a line un­der the dis­cus­sion, Vanessa says, “Well, you’re not 18 yet.”

With Jade off to the South Pole in late Novem­ber, Vanessa is brac­ing for a sleep­less sum­mer. It will be Jade’s big­gest chal­lenge yet: ski­ing from the coast of Antarc­tica to the South Pole, an ad­ven­ture that will take her across 1170km in 60 days. If she reaches the pole, Jade will be the youngest per­son to do it, but she is only too aware of what it will take to get there: “I’m ex­cited, but I also know that it’s go­ing to be a lot colder, a lot longer, a lot harder.”

Then again, as Jade says, “If it were easy, it wouldn’t be amaz­ing.”

Jade bat­tled the el­e­ments to be­come the youngest woman to cross Green­land.

FROM TOP: The Hameis­ter fam­ily, Vanessa, Kane, Paul and Jade. Haul­ing sup­plies over rocky ter­rain with the team. Blue skies and ice as Jade skis.

ABOVE: Jade at the com­ple­tion of her trek across Green­land.

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