While other teenagers marked the start of 2010 by partying with illicit supplies of vodka, Katie Walter spent New Year’s Eve in a frozen tent, celebrating becoming the youngest person to reach the South Pole.
Katie, 17, arrived at the pole on December 31, after a 112-mile trek across the Antarctic wilderness. “It was a very good time for a celebration,” she said.
But Katie insisted she wasn’t motivated by breaking the record set five years ago by Sarah McNair-Landry, an 18-year-old Canadian. “It wasn’t doing it to be the youngest person — that was a bonus ball,” she said.
“I think it makes no difference, because it’s a personal achievement. It wasn’t about ‘I’m the youngest’, it was about me challenging myself. It was hard, but if it wasn’t, more people would do it.”
Katie has been training for the trip for two years, since she was picked to take part in the youngest expedition to the North Pole, only to have all the other youngsters drop out.
So instead she signed on to an expedition, led by the explorer Mike Thornewill, to reach the South Pole from the point where Ernest Shackleton had to turn back 100 years ago. She has devoted most of her free time since to a harsh training regime centred on dragging car tyres over long distances.
Now she has finally made it, she says that she is at a bit of a loss. “It’s a strange feeling. All the exercise had a goal — I’m pulling this tire to get to the pole. I’m not sure what I’m going to do on Sunday.”