M&G North Pole
No women’s team had ever skied continually from land to the North geographic pole and Ann was determined she would be the first. She asked Caroline Hamilton and Pom Oliver to join her and they put together the M&G North Pole 2002 Expedition. They spent over a year planning and training for the arduous and extreme challenge.
A journey across the Arctic Ocean is fraught with difficulties. Not least the extreme temperatures in a marine environment but the very ice they skied across moved and changed constantly as the enormous power of the arctic currents and wind drove the ice together and at other times cracked it wide open. They encountered huge ridges, at times 30 to 40 feet in height, thin ice, open water, rubble fields and of course the constant threat of a polar bear encounter.
As they set off from Ward Hunt Island their sledges weighed almost 300 lb and the terrain was filled with constant pressure ridges and rubble fields. Temperatures as low as –50ºC for the first 26 days severely hampered the expedition’s progress and success looked doubtful. The team of three girls were hit by storms so severe that they were unable to put their tent up and had to huddle under tent material for 3 days, with little food or water. On day 37 they had completed just 69 miles of the 500 mile journey.
They suffered from severe frostbite, back problems and carbon monoxide poisoning from contaminated fuel. After 47 hazard filled days Pom Oliver had to leave the expedition as a result of frostbite and wet gangrene, leaving Ann and Caroline over 300 miles to cover in 30 days. Although the pole looked impossible neither were willing to give up and skied for over 15 hours each day, with little sleep in between. Both fell into the ocean and had to swim across open expanses of water but their determination to succeed prevailed and on 1st June 2002 Ann and Caroline stepped onto the pole, planted the union jack and proudly sang the National Anthem. Against all odds they had become the first all women’s team in the world to ski to both poles. A feat that has never been repeated.
Their success was covered in newspapers, t.v. and radio across the world. Ann is asked to appear in the media to talk about this amazing feat today.