2010 AG Awards Adventurer of the Year: Linda Beilharz
IN 2004, LINDA BEILHARZ became the first Australian woman to ski from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole, a feat no other female Aussie has yet completed. Traversing the largest icecap on Earth inspired Linda to set herself a goal to traverse the world’s four largest icecaps – the Antarctic, the Arctic, Greenland and Patagonia.
In 2007 Linda successfully crossed the Greenland Icecap and in 2009 she attempted a crossing of South Patagonia. Although this crossing wasn’t successful, it didn’t discourage the 50-year-old adventurer from setting off to conquer the Arctic earlier this year.
On 26 April, after completing an epic 55-day, 780-km journey from Ward Hut Island, the most northern tip of Canada, to the North Pole, Linda became the first Australian woman to trek to the pole and the first female to reach both poles on foot.
Linda, from Bendigo in country Victoria, completed the trip with husband Rob Rigato and Canadian alpine guide Sarah McNair-Landry. Together they powered through blizzards and whiteouts, experienced temperatures as low as -38ºC, were subject to significant ice drift away from the pole and crossed countless leads of open water, all while hauling sleds weighing up to 80 kg.
To make it to the northernmost point of the Earth, a tiny spot amidst the white-washed Arctic that Linda describes as “unremarkable”, the group skied for up to 14 hours at a time. They often forfeited sleep and during the last four days of the expedition, Linda slept for a total of only five hours.
She’s proud to be the first woman to have reached both poles by foot, but this wasn’t her motivation for the expeditions. After returning from her Greenland journey, Linda set up a not-for-profit company called Journeys for Learning. She uses stories from her expeditions to teach children about resilience, team work and environmental sustainability. Journeys for Learning supports school teachers by providing them with learning resources and lesson guides, and links schools to her expedition updates so students can follow her adventures as they take place.
“Inspiration comes from all places,” Linda says. “My family never say ‘no’. They never think it’s not a good idea, but just ask, ‘have you though of everything’?”
“We do have a responsbility I think. “As australians we are privileged. We have comfortable lives – anything looks comfortable after the north pole. But we have a responsibility to use that privilege.”
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