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I kayaked 2,000 miles along the Amazon.
I walked a high wire between the chimneys
at Battersea Power Station.
And this time around, I'm going to be taking on
my most physically demanding challenge to date.
I will be attempting to get to the South Pole
entirely under my own steam and taking everything I need with me.
I will be walking, kite-skiing, and in a world first
trying to cycle part of my route to the Pole.
It's the coldest and windiest place on earth,
temperatures drop to as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius.
I have no idea how people do this. Honestly.
SHE CRIES OUT
I don't want to play any more, this is so frustrating.
On today's programme, Helen starts to prepare
for her epic 500-mile journey to the South Pole for Sport Relief.
-You deep body temperature is now 36.5.
-How long left?
She travels to Sierra Leone to find out how Sport Relief
can stop dirty water killing thousands of people every year.
If you fell in there, well, I dread to imagine. It's not even covered.
But he knows he needs the water.
And the world's greatest living explorer
delivers a chilling warning.
If you allow your hands and your feet
to get to a certain temperature,
the blood will freeze and that flesh will die.
I made a mistake for three minutes, that was too much.
Helen's got just five months to prepare for the South Pole.
But before she can start training, she needs a medical
to make sure she's even allowed to take on her Polar Challenge.
There is no getting away from the fact that this is epic.
This is potentially the biggest thing I will ever take on.
In my head, I am telling myself that this medical is not a big deal
and it's all going to be fine, but it is a big deal
because if I don't pass it, I won't not be allowed to go.
This adventure will be over before it has even begun.
Professor Greg Whyte is the expert
who will give Helen the all clear... or not.
He specialises in endurance
and has trained celebrities such as Ferne Cotton...
-..and David Walliams for their Sport Relief challenges.
Greg's under no illusions just how tough
Helen's Polar Challenge will be.
Helen has run across the desert, she has canoed down the Amazon,
but this will be the toughest challenge she has ever faced.
How hard do you think it's going to be?
Antarctica is brutal, in a word.
It's one of the toughest places on the planet.
In the summer when it is 24 hours' daylight,
temperatures still get down
in the region of minus 60 on certain days.
These are very, very tough places, and in fact
very dangerous places to be.
There's lots of things that can happen.
Frostbite, which can happen in minutes.
You can lose digits, particularly fingers, toes, nose and ears.
The cold is really potent.
What we know is that things like heart attacks rise in cold weather.
-I couldn't have a heart attack?
The key thing to remember is that the cold kills.
This is how serious this challenge is.
This is an incredibly difficult environment to deal with
and the cold can have incredibly profound affects on your body.
There's no point doing it, if there's going to be a problem.
-I don't know why I'm smiling.
-Nor do I.
-It'll be fine!
And to find out if there are any problems,
Greg takes a reading of Helen's heart rate
while she's resting before putting her to work on an exercise bike.
-Take a seat on there for me, Helen.
-What is this testing?
-This is the torture chamber. OK?
We are doing two things here, really.
One is that we're looking at the heart and how the heart is working.
Particularly how it's working under stress.
So we're basically going to look at the heart with this.
As the exercise gets harder and harder, and harder,
the heart has to work harder and harder
and we're going to see how it's coping with that.
She's off and it's not long before Helen's feeling the effects.
I think the important thing here is that, when you
were lying down, your heart rate was 47 beats per minute?
-Now, at 102 beats per minute.
Helen's heart rate has doubled with just a little bit of exercise
so Greg is keen to see how she performs
when she's pushed to the limit.
Keep that power up, keep working, not long to go. Keep working.
Keep pushing it out, really drive it. Really drive it.
Push loads, come on! Keep driving, don't give up.
Keep driving, keep driving! Drive those legs around. Drive them round.
Everything you've got, everything, everything, everything.
Good stuff. And stop there. Very nice, indeed.
Well done. Well done. Excellent work.
After a hard slog, it's the moment of truth...
Will Greg have found any medical problems that will stop Helen
from taking on her Polar Challenge?
-Have I passed?
-Yes, is the very simple answer to that.
What I was interested in, from a health perspective,
is how the heart and lungs can cope with very hard exercise
and that was perfectly normal.
I've done what you expected,
but I'm not necessarily fit enough to get to the South Pole on a bike.
To get you to one of the most
inhospitable places on the planet,
and have you work as hard as you can on a bike, we have a way to go.
Some of the greatest explorers have crumbled in Antarctica.
This is not about being fit, this is not about having experience.
This is a really, really difficult challenge.
Helen is travelling to the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth.
Temperatures regularly fall to minus 50 degrees Celsius.
That's at least twice as cold as your freezer at home!
To survive, she'll carry all her food and equipment on a sled
which will be incredibly physically demanding.
Fully packed, Helen's sled will weigh 82 kilograms,
the same as dragging along a fully grown man.
Greg's next test is to see how fast Helen can pull the sled
over a distance of ten metres.
There's lot of force going through that back and shoulders, OK?
-Two, one, go.
That's good, that's good, that's good.
That's really quite nice.
That is it. Good, and push.
-Oh, my Lord.
-Ten metres now, that's it.
Keep pushing, keep pushing. Keep working, keep working.
Touch the wall.
Beautiful. 18 seconds.
500 miles, are you having a laugh?!
That was 18 seconds for ten metres.
'I'm not fit enough and I'm not strong enough yet,'
but I believe with a lot of training and hard work, I'll get there.
It's not going to be fun, the training,
and I know I'm not going to enjoy it.
I know there'll be days when I think, "Why am I doing this?"
But I'm doing this for a good cause.
I'm doing it for Sport Relief,
I'm doing it for projects I believe in
and because I have met children whose lives are transformed
by Sport Relief projects.
Children from countries like Sierra Leone in West Africa.
The country has been struggling to recover from a decade of conflict,
but now thousands of people a year are dying from a problem
much easier to solve than the civil war...
Diarrhoea caused by drinking dirty water
is one of the biggest causes of death in Sierra Leone.
Infections and parasites cause cholera and dysentery.
And monsoon floods spread contaminated water
that fill up the wells with sewage and chemicals.
One boy who knows all about the devastating effects
that contaminated drinking water can have on a family is Issa.
Helen went to Calaba Town
where he introduced her to his Dad and grandmother
and showed her their house.
I lost my mum, my eldest sister and my younger brother.
All three died from drinking dirty water.
-Your brother and mum got sick because they drank water from the well?
The contaminated well that they drank from
is just a few metres from Issa's front door.
What do you think about this well being right here?
I think about it, it is not good. It is dangerous.
Everybody that drinks get ill.
Your mum and brother drank from it, why?
Because there is no other water to drink here.
It's hard for Helen to believe that something we all take for granted...
a drink of water, killed Issa's mum. He misses her dreadfully.
Sometimes when I think of her, I sit at the corner and cry.
-I'm sure she would be very proud of you.
Can you imagine something killing your mum or your baby brother,
and having to look at it every single day.
That's exactly what he does
and he does it with very little quarrel or complaint.
The only way Issa and the remaining members of his family
can get clean water is to walk to the nearest safe well.
Helen goes with him on the long journey.
In the dry season, how many times a week do you go to the well?
Always in the morning, 5 o'clock before I go to school.
-Do you mind going?
-It is hard work.
Not only does Issa have to walk for two hours
to get clean water back to his family,
but he also has to cross the busy and dangerous main road.
When they eventually get to the well,
Helen see's it really isn't a place for a 12-year-old boy.
Oh, my word. If you fell in there, well, I dread to imagine.
It's not even covered.
But he knows he needs the water.
He's well over an hour away from safe water,
not even running water, just water that is safe enough to drink.
And then they do the same hour-long journey in reverse,
but this time with heavy buckets of precious, clean water.
Oh, my Lord, oh, my Lord.
Oh, my word.
I'm definitely not putting it on my head.
I couldn't carry this every day.
They've only been going for a few minutes
when Issa suddenly cuts his foot.
OK? Oh, Issa.
The pressure of what he has to do every single day is taking its toll.
If he doesn't go home with the water,
then his family won't drink.
His one-year-old brother won't get a drink of water.
Why don't you get on my back.
I'll take you, then we'll come back for the water.
Helen can help him today,
but tomorrow Issa will set out on his own again.
That's why Issa and thousands of children like him
need your support to help raise money for Sport Relief this year.
This is kind of annoying, in this day and age
something so simple, and something so easily sorted hasn't been.
But that is what you and I can do by getting involved with Sport Relief.
Just a few miles away, people are already seeing the benefits
of a Sport Relief project
which has brought clean water back to the community.
Just over here is a brand new well.
It's so new that the concrete is still drying on it.
It's on the other side of town from Issa,
but if you want to make sure Issa and other kids like him
can drink safe, clean drinking water from wells like this
then all you need to do is get involved with Sport Relief this year.
THEY ALL CHEER
Visiting Sierra Leone has made Helen all the more determined
to succeed with her Polar Challenge for Sport Relief.
To help her prepare for the brutal conditions of Antarctica,
Helen wants to find out first-hand what it's like
from someone who has been there and done it.
So she's off to meet the man described as the world's
greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
He was the first person to cross the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans.
He's the oldest Briton ever to have reached the summit of Everest
and was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles.
Helen's already found out how hard it is to pull a heavy sled
over ten metres on flat ground,
but her route to the South Pole won't be quite that simple.
She'll travel over all sorts of uneven surfaces in Antarctica.
To help her learn the techniques she needs,
Sir Ranulph is putting Helen through her paces - tyre pulling.
The tyres behave in the same way as a heavy sled,
weighing Helen down and getting stuck in all the wrong places!
-It's not too bad.
Oh, that's definitely heavier.
Because I'm in front of you, I feel I should pick that one.
-Maybe you ought to start with that one.
Concentrate, Helen, this is a man
who's conquered the North and South Poles.
No pressure then!
This is a bit embarrassing. It's so heavy.
The backs of my legs are already burning.
Are you ready to try the logs?
They are the nearest thing we can simulate
in these circumstances for the Sastrugi.
Sastrugi is the name for an unusual snow formation
that Helen will encounter in the Antarctic.
The long wave-like ridges of snow are caused by wind
eroding the snow from one side.
They're rock hard and very difficult to cross with a heavy sled.
The stronger Helen is, the better she'll be able to deal with them.
If you're pulling and it won't come,
don't keep trying too often because your energy gets exhausted.
So quickly turn round and learn the high jinx like haul to the left,
haul to the right, put your body down, then come up like that.
That's it, that's it. Keep pulling.
You really do want to keep changing things to suit yourself.
That's good. Sideways. Excellent.
-No, first class.
Having done little things like Sastrugi and pressure ridges,
we need to give you a bit more incline,
-so if we head down the valley...
This looks steep.
Try it as much as you possibly can
and the moment you think you're not winning, turn round.
Oops a daisy.
In cravass fields, falling around isn't always advisable.
I had no idea that the terrain would be that extreme
and I didn't really entertain the idea that my sledge
would catch on things, jar and pull me back.
I'm glad that I've got a better idea of what the terrain
is going to be like. It does mean that I'm going to have
to look at my modes of transport a bit more carefully.
I'm impressed by Helen.
She loves to do that little bit extra.
You can see it's a personal affront not to finish whatever it is.
But being physically strong
isn't the only skill Helen will need in the Antarctic.
Attention to detail is vital.
In temperatures of minus 50, simple mistakes can lead to frostbite,
something that Sir Ranulph knows all too well.
If you allow your flesh anywhere but normally your hands and your feet,
to get to a certain temperature, the blood will freeze,
the quicker you will get frostbite and that flesh will die,
starting usually at the ends
and coming down towards the hands or the toes.
What happened with your fingers?
That was in water, at night. It was minus 45, minus 48.
I went over ice that was collapsing and my sledge fell in the water.
It dragged me down ten feet.
Once the sledge was in the water, jammed under the ice blocks,
it had my tent and my cooker so I had to get it out, which meant
putting my hand under the water.
I lost all the ends of those fingers in only three minutes
of being exposed to the wind
and the cold with no insulation to protect them.
Even people with vast amount of experience do get caught out
and ultimately do fail, don't they?
Do I need to worry because I'm a complete novice?
In 38 years of doing polar expeditions,
I made a mistake for three minutes and that was too much.
Meeting Sir Ranulph Fiennes has given Helen a taste of just
how punishing the extreme cold of Antarctica can be,
but she's still keen to find out more.
100 years ago another great British explorer,
Captain Robert Falcon Scott led a team attempting to be
the first people to reach the South Pole.
Pulling all their food and equipment on sleds, their aim was to beat
a rival expedition led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
Helen has come to the British Film Institute to watch a rare film made
at the time of Scott's expedition by a filmmaker called Herbert Ponting.
It gives a real insight into what the very first
South Pole explorers had to face.
Bryony Dixon is one of the experts who's been restoring the film
for the past two years and knows the story inside out.
So they must have had no idea
what they were going to and no idea what to expect.
As it says, only ten human beings
had ever trodden on that bit of land, in the world ever.
No-one had any idea what was in the interior Antarctica.
On the 1st November 1911,
Captain Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates
and Edgar Evans set out on their 850-mile journey to the South Pole.
Their goal, to be the first people ever to get there.
But Scott and his team weren't the only ones with that ambition.
A Norwegian Captain, Roald Amundsen,
had also landed a team in Antarctica.
The race to the Pole was on!
What he didn't know was Amundsen had picked a better route.
It was shorter, more direct
and it didn't have to go up this huge glacier, the Beardmore glacier.
Travelling with Scott were four support parties.
Their job was to drop off large quantities of food
at designated points along the route which Scott
and his men would use on their return journey.
There's no food in Antarctica at all
so you've got to take everything you need with you.
Once the last of the support parties had turned back,
Scott and his companions were left all alone
to cross the great ice desert.
After 78 days, exhausted, frozen and starving,
Scott and his men finally reached the South Pole
on the 17th January 1912.
It should have been the greatest moment of their lives.
But to their dismay they found a small, deserted tent
and the Norwegian flag flying.
Roald Amundsen had beaten Scott to the pole by just 33 days.
Shattered by the news, he wrote in his diary:
Devastated, the team now had to face the gruelling return journey
850 miles back to base camp.
Even if they'd had enough food, and the conditions has been better,
they may not have survived.
On the 17th February, the first man died.
Edgar Evans fell into a coma and never woke up.
Next to fall was Captain Oates.
Suffering from terrible frostbite,
he was afraid of holding up his companions.
He left the tent one night saying,
"I'm just going outside, and I may be some time."
They never saw him again.
Weak and running desperately low on food, Scott and his men
were trapped by a storm in their tent for five days.
This is the really tragic, tragic bit,
they got within 11 miles of the food depot.
It was one day's march.
-After all that!
-And they just couldn't do it.
On Thursday 29th March, Scott wrote,
"It seems a pity but I do not think I can write any more."
Beaten by the freezing temperatures of Antarctica one by one,
the men died where they lay.
Although Captain Scott's expedition ended in tragedy, the bravery,
sense of adventure and determination shown by the men
has inspired generations of explorers, including Helen.
But unlike Scott, she has the advantage of modern day technology.
It will help her prepare to face the biggest enemy to polar explorers,
the extreme cold.
She's come to the University of Portsmouth
to meet Professor Mike Tipton and his team
and take part in an experiment to see how her body reacts to the cold.
Here we go then, in five, four, three,
two, one... Go!
Oh, it's really cold! Ah!
Just relax, that's fine.
Just stick with it.
At 12 degrees Celsius and with no special clothing to protect her,
Helen's body will cool down rapidly.
This is really, really cold.
I thought it would be swimming pool temperature.
12 degrees is about the same temperature as the sea
around the UK during the winter months.
45 minutes in here? Are you having a laugh?
The team are using a thermal imaging camera
to show where her body is losing heat.
White is hot, red is warm and blue is cold.
This feels like icy water. It doesn't feel like cold water.
Your deep body temperature is now 36.85.
Our cut off in terms of as low as it can go is 35.
How long left?
Um... you've got about eight minutes.
As well as body temperature,
Mike is also keen to know how she's feeling.
OK, so now you're starting to get uncomfortable
because of all the shivering that's going on.
OK, that's it. Out we come!
After 45 minutes the thermal imaging camera shows
there's no heat coming from Helen's body
and her core body temperature has dropped by 1.5 degrees.
She's lost all control of her arms and the reality of how
exposure to cold conditions can affect her body is hitting home.
My arms feel...
-..as if they're being gripped.
This area is really easy to cool
because it has such a high surface area,
and a small mass so the arms are important to stay protected.
We'll get you into the warm as quickly as we can.
-Oh, that's so good!
Well, we'll get more in there for you cos you'll cool it down.
When I first was lowered into that water, I did panic and it was...
..really horrible and I thought,
"There's no way I'm going to stay in here.
"I'm not going to be able to warm up,
"I'm not going to be able to get into a hot bath.
"I'm going to be cold the whole time I'm there."
And the clock is ticking.
There's now only four months to go until Helen's polar challenge,
when she'll have to be mentally and physically ready to cope
with the freezing temperatures of Antarctica.
It's a daunting prospect, but she's determined to succeed
and raise awareness for Sport Relief
so that children like Issa can get the help they need.
And if you've been inspired by Helen's challenge,
why don't you go the extra mile and get involved
in Sport Relief this year?
Get a grown-up and sign up to do the Sport Relief mile.
There are hundreds of events
and by raising money, you can help poor
and vulnerable people in the UK and around the world.
Next time, Helen's in California getting to grips with her
specially built ice bike for the first time.
I'm not sure it's that easy to peddle in all this gear!
You can already see that she's exhausted.
Sand stands in for snow in a back-breaking training session.
Fun for five minutes.
Practical for 500 miles? I don't think so.
And a gruelling 15-mile off-road bike race
puts her cycling skills to the test.
I haven't fallen off yet!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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