Helen's Polar Challenge for Sport Relief Sport Relief


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Helen's Polar Challenge for Sport Relief

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.

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She completed the highest high-wire walk ever by a woman in the UK.

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Now, for Sport Relief 2012, the toughest girl on TV...

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Ow!

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..Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton is taking on the toughest place on earth.

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Antarctica.

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Helen wants to travel 500 miles across this unforgiving landscape

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to the South Pole by ski,

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by kite

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and, in a world first, by bike.

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Helen's preparations began six months ago

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in the shanty towns of Sierra Leone

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where she saw how Sport Relief money helps poor and vulnerable people.

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She's also put herself through months of training

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learning kite-skiing,

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off-road biking and how to survive in the extreme cold.

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This is the most unpleasant experience of my life.

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This is the story

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of Helen's epic battle to reach to the South Pole.

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Antarctica - the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth.

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It's twice as cold your deep freeze.

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It will also be Helen's home for the next six weeks.

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But when Helen touches down

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at her base camp on the northern tip of the continent,

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just before Christmas, she's just happy to have arrived.

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I'm so impressed with the Russian pilots.

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They landed here in Antarctica on sheets of ice.

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But I am relieved to finally be here in Antarctica.

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Feels like it's on now.

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Helen has travelled to Antarctica with her Norwegian team-mate

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and world Champion Kite-skier, Niklas Norman.

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With the start of their polar challenge just days away, the pair go through their final preparations.

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They're most worried about the bikes.

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These specially adapted ice bikes have super wide tyres

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to cope with the extreme terrain.

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But no-one has ever tried to ride a bike to the South Pole before.

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This is the first chance Helen and Niklas have to try them out on snow.

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It's the moment of truth.

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SHE LAUGHS

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After a few hours in the saddle, Helen's cautiously optimistic.

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Well, I didn't know deep down if it was going to work.

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It's not easy. It's not going to be plain sailing,

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but it IS working and it IS moving forward

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so that is a huge weight off my shoulders.

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Christmas is a white one for Helen,

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but there's no let up in her preparations, starting out with an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.

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-Where are you, Helen, exactly?

-I am at 71 degrees South.

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And they have an unexpected Christmas present.

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-'Hiya, Helen, how are you?'

-Ohhh!

-'Are you all right?'

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-Hello, Mum, are you all right?

-'I'm good.'

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Didn't think I'd miss everybody, but I do.

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'Is it like you expected out there or is it a bit tougher?'

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Oh, I don't know,

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I didn't think I would be as homesick as I've been,

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but I kept thinking last night about everything that we do,

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so, I love you dearly, and I'll make you proud.

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'You'll be fine, you'll be absolutely fine.

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'We have every confidence.

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'There'll be tough days, but I know you can do it.'

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I didn't think I'd miss home at all.

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Then I heard my mum,

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I just started crying. I don't know what it is,

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but Christmas makes you so sentimental,

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and messages from kids and support from home is what gets you through things like this.

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And it's now true more than ever.

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Christmas tears over, Helen and Niklas try out

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one of their other modes of transport - cross-country skiing.

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But after only four hours skiing, she's got a problem.

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You've already developed a blister about the size of a 20p piece.

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Ow!

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If we left this on its own, it would just get worse.

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I'd like to say it's not going to jeopardise

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what we're attempting to do, but, potentially, it could.

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One of the commonest reasons people have to give up in this environment

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is their feet. If her feet totally break down,

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and they're too uncomfortable to walk on, she may have to give up.

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And to cap it all,

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Helen's body doesn't respond well to the expedition food.

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I...

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developed a rather loose stomach.

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In other words,

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I've needed to use the toilet

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for number twos about six times today.

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And that's not that easy when you don't have a toilet,

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you're wearing three layers of clothing and a harness.

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So, as Christmas days go...

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..not necessarily one I'm keen to repeat.

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Christmas over, it's a real relief for Helen

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and her team-mate Niklas to fly forward to their start position -

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500 miles from the South Pole.

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Three, two, one.

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On 4th January, in blazing sun but temperatures of minus 20,

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their challenge begins.

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CAR HORNS BEEP

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But after just a matter of minutes,

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it's clear that riding a bike on snow, pulling all their essential equipment,

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is going to be a whole lot harder and slower than they ever feared.

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Niklas, you love that bike, don't you?

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I hate the bike.

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For me, as a Norwegian, it's a bit strange to be bicycling

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in good winds from behind with the kites in the sled.

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-You'll love the bike by the end.

-I know.

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Their speed is about two miles an hour. And even that's agony.

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Ah, my legs.

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Ow!

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Helen and Niklas need to do 25 miles a day to get to the Pole on time.

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Is that really comfier?

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On day one, they're already ten miles short.

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But the travelling isn't the end of their hard work.

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What makes this a bit more difficult

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is at the start and end of each day, you'd take down a tent

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and then you put up a tent and all that takes a bit of time.

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It's full on this, isn't it?

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In fact, their nightly routine can take up to four hours,

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two of which includes just melting snow.

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I always have to put a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan

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because, believe it or not,

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the snow out here is so dry you can actually burn snow.

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So put an inch of water in the bottom of the pan left over from the day

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and then add snow.

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It's weird because this place couldn't look and be

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any more different from Sierra Leone.

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Yet, sitting here right now...

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..it's making me realise how precious water is,

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because it is such a hassle to get water to drink.

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As part of her preparation for this Sport Relief Challenge,

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Helen travelled to the slums of Freetown in Sierra Leone,

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to see the impact of not having any clean water.

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She met 12-year-old Issa

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who's knows all too well about its devastating effects.

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I lost my mum, my elder sister and my younger brother.

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All three of them died from drinking contaminated water

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from a well directly outside his house.

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Your mum and brother drank from it. Why?

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Because there is no other water to drink here.

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Sometimes when I think of her, I sit in the corner and cry.

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The only way Issa and the remaining members of his family

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can get clean water is to walk for hours to the nearest safe well.

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Helen joined him on the long journey.

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In the dry season, how many times a week do you go to the well?

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Always in the morning, five o'clock, before I go to school.

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-Do you mind going?

-It is a hard walk.

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When they eventually reach the well,

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Helen sees it really isn't a place for a 12-year-old boy.

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Oh, my word.

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If you fell in there,

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well, I dread to imagine. It's not even covered.

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But he knows he needs the water.

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He's well over an hour away from safe water, not even running water.

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Just water that's safe enough to drink.

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And then they do the same hour long journey back again,

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this time, with heavy buckets of precious clean water.

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Oh, my lord. Oh, my lord!

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Oh, my word.

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I'm definitely not putting it on my head.

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I couldn't carry this every day.

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They've only been going for a few minutes when Issa cuts his foot.

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OK... Aw!

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Issa...

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The pressure of what he has to do every single day is taking its toll.

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If he doesn't go home with the water,

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then his family won't drink.

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His one-year-old brother won't get a drink of water.

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Right, why don't you get on my back.

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I'll take you and we'll come back for the water.

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Helen can help him today,

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but tomorrow Issa will set out on his own all over again.

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So the money you raise this year will go directly to buying wells

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and providing clean water, for children like him.

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With your help Sport Relief can make sure young lives like Issa's

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aren't dominated by something as simple

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as accessing clean drinking water.

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It is kind of annoying, in this day and age,

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something so simple, and something so easily sorted...

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..hasn't been.

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That is what you and I can do by getting involved with Sport Relief.

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It's Day 2 and the wind is strong

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so we will try and kite and make up the mileage we lost yesterday.

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So, Helen, under the expert guidance

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of the kite-skiing World Champion Niklas, takes to the kite.

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There is something so rewarding about this.

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You know, you're moving forward at a pace,

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not using an engine, not using any petrol.

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I can see why the Norwegians prefer this to cycling.

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For the next four days they make great progress.

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In this time they rack up 145 miles.

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By Day 6 they're doing so well that Helen, who'd never kite-skied until four months ago,

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has a chance of setting a new world record.

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Their aim was to set the fastest time kite-skiing 100 kilometres.

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Woo-hoo!

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They covered the distance in just seven hours and 28 minutes.

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Setting a brand new world record.

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Way-hey!

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This will go down as one of those days

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that you talk about as a highlight.

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After these things you only look back on the best bits.

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So far, this has been my best bit.

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After the high of their world record Helen's about to make a very bold

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and, potentially, very unpopular decision.

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We used the kite to put miles in the bank and we've done that.

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It is time to say, "goodbye" to the kites.

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Our pace is definitely going to slow down

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but I'm determined we can still make it to the Pole in 20 days.

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They set off on their bikes

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with the remaining 190 miles in front of them.

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It's going to be tough.

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I think it's going to be worth it, if we can do it.

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Helen decided to get rid of the kites -

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and then I started worrying if we would get there at all.

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Helen's decision means they spend a bottom-numbing day and a half in the saddle.

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But it's clear by the morning of Day 12,

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the bike's performance in the soft snow is getting worse.

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It's been a really tough 12 hours.

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We managed to cycle about seven-and-a-half hours yesterday.

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We did over 20 kilometres, which is about 16 miles, I think.

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Then we hit really, really loose snow,

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so we had to then push the bikes

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for the next three hours, almost.

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We were on the go for nearly 11 hours, yesterday.

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We only just managed to do, 18 miles

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and we need to that, at least, every day from hereon in,

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to get to the Pole in time.

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We have not been able to cycle at all.

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It demands less energy to push the bikes, actually.

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Oh, bike!

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If I feel that we have other possibilities

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to move more efficiently,

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then I don't see the point in using the bikes,

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just to prove a point.

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Niklas and I have been bickering a lot.

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SHE LAUGHS

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I think, fundamentally, we're totally different people.

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He wants to get to the Pole in the quickest way possible,

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but we came here to use the three different modes of transport.

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We came here to show that we can use those bikes a bit

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and, I'm determined to stick to that.

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He's got a bit of an issue with me using the bikes.

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We argue so much.

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I want to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Zip it!

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One thing they do both agree on is that they should park the bikes

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and use their third mode of transport.

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We are now cross country skiing

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with a very large sledge.

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We're going slow, we're doing about two miles an hour.

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It's not as fast but, do you know what? I feel like we're doing it properly.

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After all this was the method that early polar pioneer,

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Captain Scott and his team used to reach the South Pole

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exactly 100 years ago.

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But Helen and Niklas have the luxury of modern equipment

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and everyday they must report their location.

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South 88 degrees, 3.806 minutes.

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Helen's concerns about their speed

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are confirmed by their GPS co-ordinates.

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Our current speed is a pitiful 1.3 miles an hour,

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which means we're going to have to be on the move

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for up to 20 hours a day.

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That's quite depressing, isn't it?

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We're literally not going to bed tonight.

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There's 24-hour daylight in Antarctica

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so while it might look like it's the middle of the day,

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it is 8pm at night.

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They travel for another two hours before putting up camp,

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exhausted, after a leg-breaking 22 miles.

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HELEN COUGHS

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There's no doubt it's got ten times harder.

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I am convinced it's going to be worth it.

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Today, gives Helen the opportunity to put her Polar Challenge

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into perspective as it's a very special day

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in the history of Antarctica.

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100 years ago, today,

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Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole.

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Now his story of struggle has become one of legend.

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Scott and his team struggled to the Pole

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but when they got there they found a Norwegian flag

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had already been planted. They couldn't claim it.

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So, deflated, they turned around and headed for home.

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But, they didn't make it.

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They died starving and exhausted.

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Eight months later their bodies were found

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and alongside them was Scott's diaries.

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That's how we know what they went through.

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When you think about how long they were here,

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how mentally and physically exhausted they must have been,

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it really does leave you in awe

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of Scott and his team.

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If they're to make the South Pole in 20 days,

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they need to go faster.

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So, in an attempt to speed up progress, Helen and Niklas

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decide to off-load their heavy bikes with the film crew.

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I thought we'd use the cross country skis the least, and we have.

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So far...

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I'm genuinely enjoying it. I think it's a change,

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it's the novelty factor.

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We're still getting used to them.

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I fall over my own feet a lot

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but I've started to slide, which Niklas told me to do

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because it's energy efficient.

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For the next two days, Helen and Niklas ski

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pulling their lighter sledges,

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but the long hours and the freezing temperatures of minus 35

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are starting to take their toll.

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HELEN COUGHS

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My cough is starting to really bug me.

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I'm trying not to cough, cos that makes it worse.

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Sometimes I can't avoid it.

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I am a little bit concerned about that.

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It hurts more than anything.

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Helen's continued coughing hasn't gone unnoticed

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from team paramedic, Gummi.

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He decides it's time to take some action.

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What I would like to do is take out my stethoscope

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and listen to your lungs,

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just to make sure you're not building up pneumonia.

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OK.

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Not now, right?

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I mean, we have to put up a tent for that, and everything.

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A stethoscope put in here will be freezing.

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Why don't I crack on for a couple of hours, get more miles in

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-and then we'll do that tonight.

-I'm a bit concerned that...

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if you push too hard,

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you might be over-doing it.

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What if we go for another hour and then we'll stop?

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An hour is not going to be a make or break for the whole run,

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but it could be more beneficial for your cough and yourself now

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if we put up camp pretty soon.

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-OK, what about in half an hour?

-Half an hour?

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-Yeah.

-That sounds strict.

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Right, I'm going. This could take half an hour.

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Helen gets her way and carries on for another half an hour.

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But a simple cough in these extreme conditions

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can turn into something very serious very quickly.

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Take a deep breath.

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OK.

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I can hear a little bit of crackling

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in the lowest part of your lungs.

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It's not developed to pneumonia,

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but if it gets worse,

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we'll have to put you on antibiotics.

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This could possibly exclude you

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from finishing your race or expedition.

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Helen now has to take good care of herself,

0:21:150:21:18

make sure that she doesn't push too hard, even though

0:21:180:21:22

I know she's very excited to get to the South Pole.

0:21:220:21:24

We're getting close to the South Pole now

0:21:240:21:26

and so the goal is reachable if we can say that.

0:21:260:21:29

So she's anxious to finish this, but at the same time

0:21:290:21:33

she has to make sure that she's taking good care of her body.

0:21:330:21:36

I don't know what I'm trying to prove by doing 14 hours

0:21:360:21:39

because all I'm going to do is make myself ill

0:21:390:21:41

and then I won't finish and then I'll just...

0:21:410:21:45

Well, then I'll be gutted.

0:21:450:21:46

I think Gummi made me realise that I have to look after myself

0:21:480:21:53

and I have to take this seriously. I can do that.

0:21:530:21:56

So hopefully I can finish.

0:21:580:22:00

The following morning, Helen takes Gummi's advice

0:22:070:22:10

and goes back to kiting - the best option to give her body

0:22:100:22:13

the rest it needs.

0:22:130:22:14

It's good to use the kite to let her lungs rest for a bit.

0:22:140:22:17

I was tossing and turning last night,

0:22:190:22:21

"I shouldn't use the kite. I said I wouldn't."

0:22:210:22:24

But that doesn't prove anything.

0:22:240:22:25

Only that I'm stubborn and a bit stupid.

0:22:250:22:29

We can get to the pole in two days if we use kites now

0:22:290:22:31

and that's what I came here to do, so I just need to do that.

0:22:310:22:34

Helen needs to complete her Sport Relief Challenge

0:22:340:22:38

so it's crucial she concentrates on finishing.

0:22:380:22:40

I cannot tell you enough times

0:22:420:22:44

that I've seen how that money makes a difference.

0:22:440:22:47

I've met families now who will benefit from Sport Relief

0:22:470:22:51

and who, with just a few pounds,

0:22:510:22:55

will see their lives change dramatically.

0:22:550:22:58

For the next day and a half, kiting conditions are perfect,

0:23:000:23:03

so they take full advantage.

0:23:030:23:05

Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!

0:23:050:23:09

In this time, Helen and Niklas cover an amazing 78 miles.

0:23:090:23:13

At the end of Day 17, Helen's cough is improving

0:23:130:23:16

and they're within touching distance of the South Pole.

0:23:160:23:19

It has been an adventure

0:23:190:23:21

in the sense there's been highs and lows and ups and downs.

0:23:210:23:24

Today I just took a sit back and thought

0:23:240:23:26

I came here to get to the South Pole in one piece

0:23:260:23:29

and I don't want to tempt fate,

0:23:290:23:32

but...it looks like that might happen.

0:23:320:23:35

Helen and Niklas pack up the sledges with all their kit

0:23:420:23:45

for possibly the last time.

0:23:450:23:47

Only 13 miles lie between them and the South Pole.

0:23:470:23:51

Sledge packed!

0:23:510:23:52

We have a long day ahead of us,

0:23:520:23:54

probably about eight or nine hours worth of travelling.

0:23:540:23:58

But if we get it right and we get on with it,

0:23:580:24:01

this is going to be the last day.

0:24:010:24:03

So I don't want to go, "Oh, just get it over with!"

0:24:030:24:06

I kind of want to take it in, cos this is it.

0:24:060:24:09

You know, this is the last bit.

0:24:090:24:11

MUSIC: "Paradise" by Coldplay

0:24:110:24:14

I forgot how heavy these bikes were.

0:24:140:24:16

After 9 miles of skiing, at minus 45 degrees,

0:24:200:24:24

they can finally see the South Pole.

0:24:240:24:27

It is a bit weird to see something on the horizon,

0:24:270:24:30

because we've just been looking at a sea of white for a few weeks now.

0:24:300:24:35

Come on, sledge. Nearly there.

0:24:360:24:39

MUSIC: "One Day Like This" by Elbow

0:24:390:24:42

Oh, tune!

0:24:430:24:45

I've got Elbow singing in my ear, "It's looking like a beautiful day."

0:24:450:24:49

You're not wrong there.

0:24:490:24:50

# It's looking like a beautiful da-a-ay... #

0:24:500:24:56

# Someone tell me how I feel... #

0:25:000:25:04

I don't know how I feel.

0:25:100:25:12

I don't want to waste it.

0:25:120:25:14

I don't want to...

0:25:140:25:16

I don't want to cry and be sad.

0:25:160:25:19

This is possibly the best adventure of my life

0:25:190:25:21

and I'm not sure whether it's over.

0:25:210:25:23

So many people do charity these days.

0:25:290:25:33

Sometimes, people almost think,

0:25:330:25:35

"Oh, here we go again! A charity challenge!"

0:25:350:25:39

But you can't get through something like this

0:25:390:25:42

with a smile on your face if you're not doing it for the right reasons.

0:25:420:25:46

And that's why I can't say no to Sport Relief.

0:25:470:25:51

This is so bonkers, isn't it?

0:25:550:25:57

"Welcome to the South Pole. Please follow the groomed footpath."

0:25:570:26:00

They're now on the home straight.

0:26:010:26:03

Helen's epic 500-mile adventure

0:26:030:26:06

across the world's most hostile environment is coming to an end.

0:26:060:26:10

So what better way to finish than how they started - on the bikes.

0:26:100:26:14

-Shall we give it a go?

-Let's try.

-Come on, bikes!

0:26:140:26:18

Whoo!

0:26:180:26:20

With the half a mile to go, they ditch the sledges and just pedal.

0:26:200:26:24

I have to admit that I think it's really cool to

0:26:240:26:27

arrive at the South Pole on a bike.

0:26:270:26:32

Many people have been here since Admundsen and Scott 100 years ago,

0:26:320:26:37

but I don't think many have arrived on bikes.

0:26:370:26:42

# So throw those curtains wide

0:26:480:26:53

# One day like this a year'd see me right... #

0:26:530:26:58

I can see the ball!

0:26:580:27:01

-# Throw those curtains wide... #

-Woo-hoo!

0:27:010:27:04

# One day like this a year'd see me right. #

0:27:040:27:09

Peddle!

0:27:110:27:12

-Whoo!

-Yay!

0:27:150:27:18

Ah, that's such a good feeling!

0:27:180:27:21

Get in!

0:27:210:27:23

'I can't believe we're at the South Pole.

0:27:230:27:26

'We're at the bottom of the world.'

0:27:260:27:28

I'm so proud of the fact that we made it

0:27:280:27:30

using all three modes of transport.

0:27:300:27:32

'This might be the proudest day of my life.'

0:27:320:27:35

Thank you so much.

0:27:350:27:37

'I know with every fibre in my body

0:27:400:27:41

'that Sport Relief money makes a difference, cos I've seen it.

0:27:410:27:45

'And because of that,

0:27:450:27:49

'I can't give up on these things and I can't wimp out

0:27:490:27:52

'and I can't complain.'

0:27:520:27:55

Woo-hoo!

0:27:550:27:56

If this inspires you to give a penny or run a Sport Relief mile,

0:27:590:28:02

then I thank you, from the bottom of my heart

0:28:020:28:05

and the bottom of the world.

0:28:050:28:07

And if you want to go the extra mile for Sport Relief

0:28:110:28:15

and help people like Issa, it's really easy.

0:28:150:28:17

Thank you.

0:28:430:28:45

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:29:010:29:03

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.