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Women in Travel Interviews: Jade Hameister

The first in our series is a 16-year-old world-record-holding explorer
Written by
Emma Schofield

As part of Women's History Month in March and International Women's Day on the 8th, we are conducting a series of interviews with interesting and inspirational women in travel. From adventurers and conservationists to guides and rangers, there are some amazing women out there, and here's what a few of them have to say.

The first person we got in touch with was a young explorer named Jade Hameister. At the age of 12 she trekked to Everest Base Camp, at 14 she become the youngest person in history to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside The Last Degree. She is also the youngest person to complete the Polar Hat Trick (traversing the North Pole, South Pole and Greenland ice sheet), and, as if that wasn't enough, she also set a new route to the South Pole unsupported and unassisted. Did we mention she is only 16? We spoke to Jade to find out more about her achievements and what inspires her.

From completing the Everest Base Camp trek at only age 12, to completing the South Pole challenge in January, what made you want to undertake these expeditions?

I have been brought up in a very adventurous family. While I was a young girl growing up, my dad was off climbing the seven summits, and both my parents took me and my brother on little adventures every year. Everest Base Camp was my idea – I wanted to see what dad had climbed to the top of in 2011. 

The polar hat trick was also my idea and came mainly from talking to an Icelandic lady on my trek to Everest Base Camp. She was very inspiring – she’d skied coast to South Pole the year before and crossed Greenland – and we are still good friends today. She gave me a necklace to keep me safe on my most recent expedition.

Who Or What Inspires You?

Any young person, particularly young women, who chooses to be brave in chasing their dreams – whatever those dreams may be – for example, not caring about whether they look foolish or silly by working hard to chase a goal that may or may not work out or others may not relate to.

At the start of the expedition

What Has Been Your Favourite Expedition And Why?

I have loved different parts of them all, but the absolute highlight would have to be being the first humans to explore the Kansas Glacier and opening up a new route through the Transantarctic Mountain Range to the South Pole, as Amundsen and Scott did around 100 years earlier.

During Any Of Your Treks, Was There Any Point You Felt Like Giving Up? How Did You Overcome This If So?

Nearly every day at some point the little voice in my head would ask what the hell was I doing and what right did I have to think I was capable of achieving this goal. Self-doubt was always there for me, with the mental challenge of hundreds of hours of listening to the little voice in my head while I dragged my sled in brutally cold conditions but I never got close to giving up.  I just tried to get to the end of each day and then trust that if I ate enough food and got enough sleep, I would wake up in the morning ready to do it all again the next day.

You are also keen on communicating the challenges with climate change - do you have any advice on how to start to tackle this problem?

Yes. As probably the only representative from my generation to have the privilege of first hand experience in all three of the planet’s major polar regions, I definitely feel a responsibility to play a part in trying to slow global warming. Its impact, particularly in the Arctic, is really scary. There is lots we can do as individuals, but the real change has to come from governments around the world and to do this we all need to start thinking and making decisions as one human species on our one habitable planet – nature doesn’t care about the borders and economic interests of individual countries!

What Are You Most Passionate About?

I really want to try and help shift the focus for young women from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do and can contribute to this world. I think if we empower young women around the world, everyone will benefit and a more caring approach to our environment might also follow.

Aside From The Online Trolls, Have You Faced Any Criticism For Your Expeditions Purely Due To The Fact That You Are A Woman?

Aside from the “make me a sandwich” comments I received on my TEDx talk, I have had a lot of men question whether the other men on my expeditions carried most of my gear, food and fuel for me so my sled was extra light. This is, of course, untrue and comes from insecure men who don’t want to accept that a 16-year-old female is capable of doing something they likely never could.

Jade with all her equipment

What would you say to any other women hoping to pursue their dreams?

Choose bravery over perfection. Just get started and accept that you will make mistakes and might end up looking silly. But you will be moving towards whatever matters most to you and learning. If you get too focussed on trying to do something perfectly, you probably will never start.

Are There Any Other Records You Would Like To Gain During Your Lifetime?

I haven’t thought about that. These trips were never about the records for me – most of them we only found out about after we’d started. For me it was about the adventure, I would have done the same trips even if there hadn’t been any records involved.

At the South Pole!

What Can We Expect From The Documentary That Is Set To Be Released Later This Year?

The NatGeo documentary will be the story of my three expeditions, and it also captures a series of interviews I did with leading climate change experts and Inuits in Greenland on their experience with global warming, so I hope to try and make a difference through it. I have learnt so much in the last 2 years and I am really excited about sharing that.

As Young Adventurer of the Year, what other adventures have you got planned for 2018 and beyond?

The next 2 years for me are about focussing on getting the best marks I can in years 11 and 12, but I am planning some little adventures in that time.

My big dream however is deep space travel..!

Follow in Jade's footsteps and explore the Polar regions.

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