Following are some extracts of the book I wrote after my solo trip to the South Pole in 1994.
(It is only published in Norwegian and Polish, but translated into English by Roland Huntford so if there are some English publishers out there 🙂
Liv Arnesen: Good Girls do not Ski to the South Pole
One woman’s amazing feat, proving that everyone can make his – or her – dream come true
Everyone derives pleasure and use from some form of mental training. It has helped me enormously in a variety of circumstances.
Once you have mastered the art of mental training, tension and fears vanish, or are at least minimised, and the quality of life improves. So too does the ability to concentrate on what you want, or what you have to do. Everything can be done better, with less effort, in a state of relaxation.
I hope that this ski tour to the South Pole may prove to others, especially girls, that most things are possible, even when they venture into strange arenas. To fulfil a dream, it must be converted into a goal, so that one may start planning. Hard work then follows. Most ambitions can be realised, as long as your motives are strong enough – and genuine.
Bekkestua, July 20, 1995
It is Christmas Eve. The Amundsen-Scott base has been visible for five hours. The dome grows bigger, and more and more buildings appear. I cross the landing strip and, for the first time on the whole tour I feel my skis gliding, and make my first double heave on the sticks.
It has been a wonderful experience to be a lonely nomad in Antarctica. The fifty days have gone incredibly quickly. I do remember the overwhelming fatigue and emptiness of the first few days. I sense another kind of emptiness now, as if something has been lost. Mentally, I feel as if I still have enormous reserves. I feel privileged to have gone through this experience; above all to have realised a dream.
To get within striking distance of southern latitudes, I had to begin with money, the foundation stone of any project.
I had a little brochure printed in Norwegian and English with my choice of route and other practical information.
With head held high and wildly beating heart, I went to my first meeting with a potential sponsor. I had deliberately chosen one, Lillsport, a Norwegian manufacturer of rucksacks and sportswear, whom I knew to be favourably inclined. The outcome put me in good heart to carry on.
The hunt for sponsors turned out to be far harder than I had imagined. The reactions indicated that it must have been considerably more difficult for me than for the men who had done the rounds before me. «Have you ever hauled a sledge?» was a constantly recurring question.
It was a hard time that followed, and it would have been simplest to give up. But something within me refused to do so; it would have been to let myself down, my goal was so clear. I refused to be stopped by the lack of some miserable cash.
As I child I was always told that ‘you can achieve what you want.’
Also, I was often told that I had a strong will and was appallingly pigheaded. It was only when I grew up that I understood how I could profit by these qualities. During the planning and preparation of my expedition to the South Pole I was surprised at my own willpower.
In my own case, what drove me on was a combination of upbringing and childhood surroundings; social influences and way of life in adult years, to which must be added my old dream of the South Pole, a taste for testing myself mentally and physically, besides enjoying long tours and, above all the fact that I love skiing.
A desire to go to the South Pole is not an impulsive idea. It is a long drawn out process. You cannot get the idea in May and set off in October. Success means living with the idea for year after year until it matures.
At last, the day to which I have been looking forward, consciously or unconsciously, for nearly thirty hears. It had been a long and tortuous path; now there were few ways back and only one course to my goal, 1,200 kilometres straight ahead.
The weather was fine, with good visibility, and the terrain rose in a succession of terraces. I passed some narrow crevasses now and then. In the distance, I could see blue ice and huge open chasms, luckily to the east of my course.
After 10 kilometres, with a vertical climb of 420 metres, I was satisfied with the day’s work, and made camp. It was impossible to find a level tent site, so I had to make do with a night on a slope. It had been a trying day with many a heavy heave, and I fell asleep on my way into my sleeping bag. That first night, I slept deeply for twelve solid hours.
I often thought of Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott and, with the sufferings of the old heroes at the back of my mind, I tramped on towards the South. I had food enough; also proven equipment and navigational systems.
I had prepared myself mentally in advance by assuming that it would be horribly cold and unpleasant. I had absorbed all the sufferings of the old polar polar explorers into my subconscious, where they were churned over for many a year. Psychologically, I was prepared for my own expedition to turn out just as badly.
What happened to the suffering? Of course it was cold, but I was expecting it to be colder. It began to dawn on me that I was on the ski tour of my life.
I now faced the hardest part of the journey. After having passed the Thiel Mountains, I was at an altitude of 1,300 metres above sea level, but over the next few days I was to climb another 1,500 metres.
Up in the heights, it became colder, and the snow even more clinging and abrasive. The air was also thinner, but since I had been climbing slowly, I was at any rate well acclimatised.
A few days later, I entered a region with sastrugi up to two metres high, impossible to negotiate on skis. Finally, I accepted that such was the terrain, and there was nothing much to be done about it. If I were to curse every sastrugi along the way, it would not be an enjoyable trip; far better to consider what was admirable in the formations. Even if the sastrugi definitely made the journey harder, they had a beauty of their own.
They had the most unbelievable shapes, and many beautiful shades of blue. It was like going through an art gallery of modern sculpture that was miles long. It inspired thoughts and imagination.
In the small hours of 19 December, I woke up with a feeling that something was awry. It was silent, exactly as if I had ear props.
Carefully, and a little anxiously, I opened the zipp fastener and looked out. It was a dead calm, with an unbelievable, deafening silence. It was my first day in the Antarctic without wind.
I opened the tent door and for a long time sat in my sleeping bag staring out at a calm, white expanse and a blue sky. Huge snow crystals were glittering in the sun. I crawled back into the sleeping bag and felt happy, rested and content.
The last few days were like a fairy-tale. The wind had almost completely vanished. The silence seemed overwhelming, almost oppressive. For the first time I had a feeling of being completely alone….