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Surprise! Cool Sue bumps into fellow explorer in arctic wastes
ADVENTURER Sue Stockdale's plans to walk 600 miles across floating pack ice to the North Pole have already thrown up one surprise. The Scot, who has just come home to Faringdon from a test run to the Arctic, bumped into top explorer David Hempleman-Adams as he was waiting for a helicopter to pick him up.
He was resting in a tent after reaching the pole on his third attempt and could not believe it when Sue and her walking partner Geoff Somers appeared.
Sue, 31, who was the first British woman to walk to the Magnetic North Pole under the leadership of Mr Hempleman-Adams, said: "When we were picked up by Russian helicopter from the North Pole we had to pick up another group.
"Quite close to them was another tent but we didn't know who was in it. We landed the helicopter and it turned out it was David.
"He said 'What are you doing here?' and asked me if I had any whisky. When I said no, he replied 'What? A Scots woman like you doesn't have any?'"
The famous explorer, who lives near Swindon, reached the pole on April 30 after his first two attempts failed because of an injury and a broken sledge.
Sue runs her own business Mission Possible to motivate business people. She accepts that anything can happen to anybody in a climate where the weather is always changing and strong winds can blow walkers right off course.
But her attitude is that you've got to give it a go and that she has as good a chance as anyone else. She said: "The drifting pack ice is a major problem because of winds and tides which push the ice around on top of the sea. One day we woke up in the place we started the day before. It's almost like walking an escalator backwards.
"It's a bit frustrating when it's only on one day but next year when the expedition is 80 days it will be even more frustrating at times," she added.
Discovering obstacles such as this was the reason she and Geoff, 48, joined a 60 mile-expedition led by Russian explorer Victor Boyarsky last month. They also wanted to test out their equipment, clothing and food.
Their trek - the first to be undertaken by just one man and one woman - will be ten times longer next year and will start from the other side of the Arctic in Canada.
They have named their expedition Brave Hearts in the Arctic.
But it will not be so nerve- wracking as she now knows how it feels to drag a sledge across moving ice in temperatures which got as low as -35 C and only reached a high of -15 C during the eight days it took them to walk one degree north.
Sue said: "Nobody fell in the ice but one person put their foot through. You're quite nervous. You get a false sense of security as when you're on thicker ice you start to imagine it's land but it's just thicker ice and you're walking on the ocean all the time."
They had to make big detours where the ice was too thin to cross. On one occasion, they were forced to walk west for about three hours. "It's a bit of a lottery - you know where you're heading but whether you get there is another question."
It was difficult for them to imagine while in Britain the best items to take. They realise now they do not need to take so many clothes and that it would be a good idea to buy lots more flapjacks from a health food shop in Faringdon because they still tasted good after freezing.
Eight days later, they finally arrived at the North Pole after crossing expanses of whiteness in constant daylight.
"When we got here it was really relief, not euphoria. It's like walking across a carpet, there's nothing to flag up you're there.
"It's a relief to get into tents as it gets too cold when you stop. It's hard work but not too tiring," said Sue, a keen sportswoman who has represented Scotland in the 300m and cross country.
The two adventurers now have under a year to raise £120,000 sponsorship.
They want their trip to be educational and are hoping to set up a website on the Internet so that they can answer questions passed to them on their radios via their base camp from children at a local school.
Sue said: "We want schools to find out more about the polar environment.
"We are both very much committed to not just doing it for ourselves but to benefit other people.
"We will do presentations when we come back as a means of inspiring other people to make the best of their lives in some way - not necessarily to go on an expedition but maybe to start night school or get another job."
Anyone interested in helping Sue can contact her on 07001 204060.
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