The story of Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton's epic 500-mile trek to the South Pole in aid of Sport Relief, using three modes of transport and experiencing extreme temperatures.
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She was the first woman to kayak solo down the Amazon.
She completed the highest high-wire walk ever by a woman in the UK.
Now, for Sport Relief 2012, the toughest girl on TV...
..Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton is taking on the toughest place on earth.
Helen wants to travel 500 miles across this unforgiving landscape
to the South Pole by ski,
and, in a world first, by bike.
Helen's preparations began six months ago
in the shanty towns of Sierra Leone
where she saw how Sport Relief money helps poor and vulnerable people.
She's also put herself through months of training
off-road biking and how to survive in the extreme cold.
This is the most unpleasant experience of my life.
This is the story
of Helen's epic battle to reach to the South Pole.
Antarctica - the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth.
It's twice as cold your deep freeze.
It will also be Helen's home for the next six weeks.
But when Helen touches down
at her base camp on the northern tip of the continent,
just before Christmas, she's just happy to have arrived.
I'm so impressed with the Russian pilots.
They landed here in Antarctica on sheets of ice.
But I am relieved to finally be here in Antarctica.
Feels like it's on now.
Helen has travelled to Antarctica with her Norwegian team-mate
and world Champion Kite-skier, Niklas Norman.
With the start of their polar challenge just days away, the pair go through their final preparations.
They're most worried about the bikes.
These specially adapted ice bikes have super wide tyres
to cope with the extreme terrain.
But no-one has ever tried to ride a bike to the South Pole before.
This is the first chance Helen and Niklas have to try them out on snow.
It's the moment of truth.
After a few hours in the saddle, Helen's cautiously optimistic.
Well, I didn't know deep down if it was going to work.
It's not easy. It's not going to be plain sailing,
but it IS working and it IS moving forward
so that is a huge weight off my shoulders.
Christmas is a white one for Helen,
but there's no let up in her preparations, starting out with an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.
-Where are you, Helen, exactly?
-I am at 71 degrees South.
And they have an unexpected Christmas present.
-'Hiya, Helen, how are you?'
-'Are you all right?'
-Hello, Mum, are you all right?
Didn't think I'd miss everybody, but I do.
'Is it like you expected out there or is it a bit tougher?'
Oh, I don't know,
I didn't think I would be as homesick as I've been,
but I kept thinking last night about everything that we do,
so, I love you dearly, and I'll make you proud.
'You'll be fine, you'll be absolutely fine.
'We have every confidence.
'There'll be tough days, but I know you can do it.'
I didn't think I'd miss home at all.
Then I heard my mum,
I just started crying. I don't know what it is,
but Christmas makes you so sentimental,
and messages from kids and support from home is what gets you through things like this.
And it's now true more than ever.
Christmas tears over, Helen and Niklas try out
one of their other modes of transport - cross-country skiing.
But after only four hours skiing, she's got a problem.
You've already developed a blister about the size of a 20p piece.
If we left this on its own, it would just get worse.
I'd like to say it's not going to jeopardise
what we're attempting to do, but, potentially, it could.
One of the commonest reasons people have to give up in this environment
is their feet. If her feet totally break down,
and they're too uncomfortable to walk on, she may have to give up.
And to cap it all,
Helen's body doesn't respond well to the expedition food.
developed a rather loose stomach.
In other words,
I've needed to use the toilet
for number twos about six times today.
And that's not that easy when you don't have a toilet,
you're wearing three layers of clothing and a harness.
So, as Christmas days go...
..not necessarily one I'm keen to repeat.
Christmas over, it's a real relief for Helen
and her team-mate Niklas to fly forward to their start position -
500 miles from the South Pole.
Three, two, one.
On 4th January, in blazing sun but temperatures of minus 20,
their challenge begins.
CAR HORNS BEEP
But after just a matter of minutes,
it's clear that riding a bike on snow, pulling all their essential equipment,
is going to be a whole lot harder and slower than they ever feared.
Niklas, you love that bike, don't you?
I hate the bike.
For me, as a Norwegian, it's a bit strange to be bicycling
in good winds from behind with the kites in the sled.
-You'll love the bike by the end.
Their speed is about two miles an hour. And even that's agony.
Ah, my legs.
Helen and Niklas need to do 25 miles a day to get to the Pole on time.
Is that really comfier?
On day one, they're already ten miles short.
But the travelling isn't the end of their hard work.
What makes this a bit more difficult
is at the start and end of each day, you'd take down a tent
and then you put up a tent and all that takes a bit of time.
It's full on this, isn't it?
In fact, their nightly routine can take up to four hours,
two of which includes just melting snow.
I always have to put a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan
because, believe it or not,
the snow out here is so dry you can actually burn snow.
So put an inch of water in the bottom of the pan left over from the day
and then add snow.
It's weird because this place couldn't look and be
any more different from Sierra Leone.
Yet, sitting here right now...
..it's making me realise how precious water is,
because it is such a hassle to get water to drink.
As part of her preparation for this Sport Relief Challenge,
Helen travelled to the slums of Freetown in Sierra Leone,
to see the impact of not having any clean water.
She met 12-year-old Issa
who's knows all too well about its devastating effects.
I lost my mum, my elder sister and my younger brother.
All three of them died from drinking contaminated water
from a well directly outside his house.
Your mum and brother drank from it. Why?
Because there is no other water to drink here.
Sometimes when I think of her, I sit in the corner and cry.
The only way Issa and the remaining members of his family
can get clean water is to walk for hours to the nearest safe well.
Helen joined him on the long journey.
In the dry season, how many times a week do you go to the well?
Always in the morning, five o'clock, before I go to school.
-Do you mind going?
-It is a hard walk.
When they eventually reach the well,
Helen sees 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's safe enough to drink.
And then they do the same hour long journey back again,
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 cuts his foot.
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.
Right, why don't you get on my back.
I'll take you and we'll come back for the water.
Helen can help him today,
but tomorrow Issa will set out on his own all over again.
So the money you raise this year will go directly to buying wells
and providing clean water, for children like him.
With your help Sport Relief can make sure young lives like Issa's
aren't dominated by something as simple
as accessing clean drinking water.
It is kind of annoying, in this day and age,
something so simple, and something so easily sorted...
That is what you and I can do by getting involved with Sport Relief.
It's Day 2 and the wind is strong
so we will try and kite and make up the mileage we lost yesterday.
So, Helen, under the expert guidance
of the kite-skiing World Champion Niklas, takes to the kite.
There is something so rewarding about this.
You know, you're moving forward at a pace,
not using an engine, not using any petrol.
I can see why the Norwegians prefer this to cycling.
For the next four days they make great progress.
In this time they rack up 145 miles.
By Day 6 they're doing so well that Helen, who'd never kite-skied until four months ago,
has a chance of setting a new world record.
Their aim was to set the fastest time kite-skiing 100 kilometres.
They covered the distance in just seven hours and 28 minutes.
Setting a brand new world record.
This will go down as one of those days
that you talk about as a highlight.
After these things you only look back on the best bits.
So far, this has been my best bit.
After the high of their world record Helen's about to make a very bold
and, potentially, very unpopular decision.
We used the kite to put miles in the bank and we've done that.
It is time to say, "goodbye" to the kites.
Our pace is definitely going to slow down
but I'm determined we can still make it to the Pole in 20 days.
They set off on their bikes
with the remaining 190 miles in front of them.
It's going to be tough.
I think it's going to be worth it, if we can do it.
Helen decided to get rid of the kites -
and then I started worrying if we would get there at all.
Helen's decision means they spend a bottom-numbing day and a half in the saddle.
But it's clear by the morning of Day 12,
the bike's performance in the soft snow is getting worse.
It's been a really tough 12 hours.
We managed to cycle about seven-and-a-half hours yesterday.
We did over 20 kilometres, which is about 16 miles, I think.
Then we hit really, really loose snow,
so we had to then push the bikes
for the next three hours, almost.
We were on the go for nearly 11 hours, yesterday.
We only just managed to do, 18 miles
and we need to that, at least, every day from hereon in,
to get to the Pole in time.
We have not been able to cycle at all.
It demands less energy to push the bikes, actually.
If I feel that we have other possibilities
to move more efficiently,
then I don't see the point in using the bikes,
just to prove a point.
Niklas and I have been bickering a lot.
I think, fundamentally, we're totally different people.
He wants to get to the Pole in the quickest way possible,
but we came here to use the three different modes of transport.
We came here to show that we can use those bikes a bit
and, I'm determined to stick to that.
He's got a bit of an issue with me using the bikes.
We argue so much.
I want to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Zip it!
One thing they do both agree on is that they should park the bikes
and use their third mode of transport.
We are now cross country skiing
with a very large sledge.
We're going slow, we're doing about two miles an hour.
It's not as fast but, do you know what? I feel like we're doing it properly.
After all this was the method that early polar pioneer,
Captain Scott and his team used to reach the South Pole
exactly 100 years ago.
But Helen and Niklas have the luxury of modern equipment
and everyday they must report their location.
South 88 degrees, 3.806 minutes.
Helen's concerns about their speed
are confirmed by their GPS co-ordinates.
Our current speed is a pitiful 1.3 miles an hour,
which means we're going to have to be on the move
for up to 20 hours a day.
That's quite depressing, isn't it?
We're literally not going to bed tonight.
There's 24-hour daylight in Antarctica
so while it might look like it's the middle of the day,
it is 8pm at night.
They travel for another two hours before putting up camp,
exhausted, after a leg-breaking 22 miles.
There's no doubt it's got ten times harder.
I am convinced it's going to be worth it.
Today, gives Helen the opportunity to put her Polar Challenge
into perspective as it's a very special day
in the history of Antarctica.
100 years ago, today,
Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole.
Now his story of struggle has become one of legend.
Scott and his team struggled to the Pole
but when they got there they found a Norwegian flag
had already been planted. They couldn't claim it.
So, deflated, they turned around and headed for home.
But, they didn't make it.
They died starving and exhausted.
Eight months later their bodies were found
and alongside them was Scott's diaries.
That's how we know what they went through.
When you think about how long they were here,
how mentally and physically exhausted they must have been,
it really does leave you in awe
of Scott and his team.
If they're to make the South Pole in 20 days,
they need to go faster.
So, in an attempt to speed up progress, Helen and Niklas
decide to off-load their heavy bikes with the film crew.
I thought we'd use the cross country skis the least, and we have.
I'm genuinely enjoying it. I think it's a change,
it's the novelty factor.
We're still getting used to them.
I fall over my own feet a lot
but I've started to slide, which Niklas told me to do
because it's energy efficient.
For the next two days, Helen and Niklas ski
pulling their lighter sledges,
but the long hours and the freezing temperatures of minus 35
are starting to take their toll.
My cough is starting to really bug me.
I'm trying not to cough, cos that makes it worse.
Sometimes I can't avoid it.
I am a little bit concerned about that.
It hurts more than anything.
Helen's continued coughing hasn't gone unnoticed
from team paramedic, Gummi.
He decides it's time to take some action.
What I would like to do is take out my stethoscope
and listen to your lungs,
just to make sure you're not building up pneumonia.
Not now, right?
I mean, we have to put up a tent for that, and everything.
A stethoscope put in here will be freezing.
Why don't I crack on for a couple of hours, get more miles in
-and then we'll do that tonight.
-I'm a bit concerned that...
if you push too hard,
you might be over-doing it.
What if we go for another hour and then we'll stop?
An hour is not going to be a make or break for the whole run,
but it could be more beneficial for your cough and yourself now
if we put up camp pretty soon.
-OK, what about in half an hour?
-Half an hour?
-That sounds strict.
Right, I'm going. This could take half an hour.
Helen gets her way and carries on for another half an hour.
But a simple cough in these extreme conditions
can turn into something very serious very quickly.
Take a deep breath.
I can hear a little bit of crackling
in the lowest part of your lungs.
It's not developed to pneumonia,
but if it gets worse,
we'll have to put you on antibiotics.
This could possibly exclude you
from finishing your race or expedition.
Helen now has to take good care of herself,
make sure that she doesn't push too hard, even though
I know she's very excited to get to the South Pole.
We're getting close to the South Pole now
and so the goal is reachable if we can say that.
So she's anxious to finish this, but at the same time
she has to make sure that she's taking good care of her body.
I don't know what I'm trying to prove by doing 14 hours
because all I'm going to do is make myself ill
and then I won't finish and then I'll just...
Well, then I'll be gutted.
I think Gummi made me realise that I have to look after myself
and I have to take this seriously. I can do that.
So hopefully I can finish.
The following morning, Helen takes Gummi's advice
and goes back to kiting - the best option to give her body
the rest it needs.
It's good to use the kite to let her lungs rest for a bit.
I was tossing and turning last night,
"I shouldn't use the kite. I said I wouldn't."
But that doesn't prove anything.
Only that I'm stubborn and a bit stupid.
We can get to the pole in two days if we use kites now
and that's what I came here to do, so I just need to do that.
Helen needs to complete her Sport Relief Challenge
so it's crucial she concentrates on finishing.
I cannot tell you enough times
that I've seen how that money makes a difference.
I've met families now who will benefit from Sport Relief
and who, with just a few pounds,
will see their lives change dramatically.
For the next day and a half, kiting conditions are perfect,
so they take full advantage.
In this time, Helen and Niklas cover an amazing 78 miles.
At the end of Day 17, Helen's cough is improving
and they're within touching distance of the South Pole.
It has been an adventure
in the sense there's been highs and lows and ups and downs.
Today I just took a sit back and thought
I came here to get to the South Pole in one piece
and I don't want to tempt fate,
but...it looks like that might happen.
Helen and Niklas pack up the sledges with all their kit
for possibly the last time.
Only 13 miles lie between them and the South Pole.
We have a long day ahead of us,
probably about eight or nine hours worth of travelling.
But if we get it right and we get on with it,
this is going to be the last day.
So I don't want to go, "Oh, just get it over with!"
I kind of want to take it in, cos this is it.
You know, this is the last bit.
MUSIC: "Paradise" by Coldplay
I forgot how heavy these bikes were.
After 9 miles of skiing, at minus 45 degrees,
they can finally see the South Pole.
It is a bit weird to see something on the horizon,
because we've just been looking at a sea of white for a few weeks now.
Come on, sledge. Nearly there.
MUSIC: "One Day Like This" by Elbow
I've got Elbow singing in my ear, "It's looking like a beautiful day."
You're not wrong there.
# It's looking like a beautiful da-a-ay... #
# Someone tell me how I feel... #
I don't know how I feel.
I don't want to waste it.
I don't want to...
I don't want to cry and be sad.
This is possibly the best adventure of my life
and I'm not sure whether it's over.
So many people do charity these days.
Sometimes, people almost think,
"Oh, here we go again! A charity challenge!"
But you can't get through something like this
with a smile on your face if you're not doing it for the right reasons.
And that's why I can't say no to Sport Relief.
This is so bonkers, isn't it?
"Welcome to the South Pole. Please follow the groomed footpath."
They're now on the home straight.
Helen's epic 500-mile adventure
across the world's most hostile environment is coming to an end.
So what better way to finish than how they started - on the bikes.
-Shall we give it a go?
-Come on, bikes!
With the half a mile to go, they ditch the sledges and just pedal.
I have to admit that I think it's really cool to
arrive at the South Pole on a bike.
Many people have been here since Admundsen and Scott 100 years ago,
but I don't think many have arrived on bikes.
# So throw those curtains wide
# One day like this a year'd see me right... #
I can see the ball!
-# Throw those curtains wide... #
# One day like this a year'd see me right. #
Ah, that's such a good feeling!
'I can't believe we're at the South Pole.
'We're at the bottom of the world.'
I'm so proud of the fact that we made it
using all three modes of transport.
'This might be the proudest day of my life.'
Thank you so much.
'I know with every fibre in my body
'that Sport Relief money makes a difference, cos I've seen it.
'And because of that,
'I can't give up on these things and I can't wimp out
'and I can't complain.'
If this inspires you to give a penny or run a Sport Relief mile,
then I thank you, from the bottom of my heart
and the bottom of the world.
And if you want to go the extra mile for Sport Relief
and help people like Issa, it's really easy.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
On 22 January 2012, Blue Peter's Helen Skelton completed an epic 500-mile trek to the South Pole for Sport Relief, using three modes of transport: kite skiing, cross country skis, and - in a world first - by bike. This is the story of how she made that gruelling journey, experiencing temperatures twice below that of a household fridge freezer. As well as dealing with temperatures of -36 degrees, she had to battle with blisters, not washing for weeks on end, and a cough that threatened to give her pneumonia.