Hard‑won Gains

Jade’s team included her father, Paul Hameister—a tough, accomplished mountaineer; master polar guide Eric Philips, who had also been on their North Pole team; cameraman Ming d’Arcy; and assistant cameraman Heath Jamieson, a former Australian Army commando who had been with them on the Greenland expedition.

From the beginning, conditions were brutal. The route started uphill and hardly ever leveled off. Jade struggled with her sled up icy slopes.

She headed into wind so strong and loud that she had to scream at her teammates to be heard. Jade felt like she was standing still, even though she was pushing forward with all her might. In 25 years of guiding polar expeditions, Eric Philips said these were the worst weather conditions he’d ever seen.

With the expedition cameraman behind her, Jade slowly made her way across the ice.

The steep hills were slick with blue ice. Sky blue in color, this treacherous ice is hard and slippery, like glass. The sleds seemed to have minds of their own. Jade’s skis couldn’t get traction. When they weren’t skiing, they had to strap spiked metal plates called trail crampons to their boots to help them walk.

Higher and higher they climbed, as they made their way over the Kansas Glacier. No human had ever set foot here. Ahead of them was a super‑steep ascent that would take them through the Transantarctic Mountains along their new route.

Sastrugi—wave like ridges of ice made the journey more difficult.

The going got even harder as they encountered something new—sastrugi. These are wave‑like ridges of ice formed by the wind. Skiing across them was, as Jade reported, “like skiing on a choppy ocean that has been frozen in time.” Struggling across whole fields of these hard ice ridges was one of the most exhausting things she had ever done.

Looming ahead, the far wall of the glacier looked like a giant, frozen tsunami. They pushed upward, only to find three more climbs ahead. Up and up—and finally, at 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level, they reached the highest point—the Stanford Plateau. This was a victory, but they still had a long way to go.

Man Down!

The greatest dangers on the route were the crevasses that lay in wait across the landscape. These deep, seemingly bottomless cracks are covered by snow bridges. They are deceptively thin layers of snow and ice that form over the crevasses and hide them. Jade and her team knew they needed to watch out, or they could tumble to their deaths.

The team carried long, heavy coils of rope. When they’d reach an area where they suspected hidden crevasses, they roped themselves together in case somebody fell. They just had to hope their long skis would spread out their weight enough to keep them from falling in. It was tense and hard going.

One afternoon, when Jade had taken a short break, she heard a wild yell. What was that? She knew the others had gone on ahead. She looked, and a short distance away, she saw cameraman Ming chest‑deep in a crevasse. He was hanging onto the edge with his fingers! Jade ran toward him, screaming for her dad. Ming managed to pull himself up and out of the crevasse. Whew!

Jade carefully peered down into the crevasse. It went straight down into blackness.