Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ In the Footsteps of Hillary

In the Footsteps of Hillary

In February 2022, three young people from South Auckland, New Zealand summited their first mountain on the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ In the Footsteps of Hillary.

Antarctic Heritage Trust partnered with Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara to offer students the chance to walk in the footsteps of their school’s namesake by climbing Mount Ollivier, in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Aotearoa New Zealand.

This was one of the first peaks Sir Edmund Hillary climbed, and it began a lifetime of exploration that took him not only to the top of the world, in the first ascent of Everest, but also to Antarctica – achieving the third ever overland journey to the South Pole, after Amundsen and Scott reached it 110 years ago.

In preparation for climbing Mt Ollivier, the Inspiring Explorers™ worked hard to increase their fitness and stamina with the help and mentoring of New Zealand rugby league legend and Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate past student, Ruben Wiki, and his wife Santa Wiki. Funded primarily by CLM Counties Manakau, Ruben and Santa ran weekly training sessions for the team at their Wiki Works Gym in Ōtara, South Auckland, along with regular weekend training walks.

Ruben says he noticed a marked improvement in both their physical and mental fitness since the training first began, with students responding well to new exercises plus strength and endurance concepts. His advice to the students was to take “small steps to conquer the mountain.”

They also learned some essential mountain skills, during a training weekend at Mount Ruapehu, including the basics of what to wear in the outdoors, how to use harnesses and fixed lines, how to walk with crampons, and carry out self-arrests.

The Explorer Club

The Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ In the Footsteps of Hillary featured in a new children’s television series The Explorer Club, created in collaboration with Greenstone TV.

The Explorers Club

Inspiring Explorers climbing Mount Ollivier

Background to the Expedition

The Trust launched In the Footsteps of Hillary initiative with students from the Trust’s partner Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in South Auckland, New Zealand in May 2021.

The launch introduced seven Year 13 students to Antarctic Heritage Trust, its work conserving Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic hut, and the connection with the Hillary family home, relocated onto the school grounds as a leadership centre.

The intent was to have the students climb Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku in Marlborough. With ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the shorter climb of Mount Ollivier located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park was ultimately chosen for the team’s ascent.

Above and below: Inspiring Explorers’ training climb on Mount Ruapehu

Mount Ruapehu Team Building – July 2021

In July 2021, the Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate students travelled with the Trust to the snow for their first multi-day training at Mt Ruapehu, in the central North Island. Trust General Manager, Marcus Waters, and mountain guide, Anna Keeling, taught the students about the basics of what to wear in the outdoors, how to use harnesses and fixed lines, how to walk with crampons, and carry out self-arrests, all essential mountain skills needed for their ascent.

Marcus said, “The students have developed an amazing team dynamic, they are incredibly supportive and encouraging of one another to try new things, push outside their comfort zone, and persevere when things get tough. The opportunity for the students to follow in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps will be an incredible experience. It will help them develop their explorer mindset.”

In the Footsteps of Hillary Inspiring Explorers™ Team

They are Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate students, Sarah Magele, Jaylee Savage, and A’aifou Potemani.

Inspiring Explorer, Sarah Magele

Climbing a mountain has made Sarah feel more confident to try something new, “This is something I want to do again in the future. When I was standing at the top I was shocked. I didn’t expect the view. I loved it, it was great.

“One thing I’ve learned is that once I start I’ll keep going, even if it’s really hard. I’m pretty slow but I’ll get there. I didn’t want to be that one person in the team to stop everyone or turn back. So I had to keep going.”

Inspiring Explorer, Jaylee Savage

For Jaylee it was hard to start climbing, “but we kept on going. I have learned that your mind gives up before your body does. I pushed through more than I could have imagined.”

“I’ve learned to encourage others, as well as myself, to keep striving until we get to that common goal. It felt amazing to make it to the top of the maunga (mountain). We pushed each other to keep going and we made it as a team. I don’t think it’s worth it if one of us gets left behind,” said Jaylee.

“I think it’s important to step out of our comfort zone because we need to get used to the wider world, not just our own community such as South Auckland. We need to spread our wings, and why not? It’s an amazing experience,” says Jaylee.

Inspiring Explorer, A’aifou Potemani

A’aifou was determined to get to the top, “When I got up there I was excited. I felt like I had overcome something really great within myself. I’m probably the first Polynesian mountain goat, and I loved finding tough areas to climb over.”

Lydia Bradey Inspires

The Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™ enable young people to grow and develop an explorer mindset. On this expedition Sarah, Jaylee, and A’aifou were thrilled to be mentored and guided by legendary New Zealand mountaineer Lydia Bradey ONZM. Lydia was the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen in 1988. She has gone on to summit Everest six times, and has guided ascents of Everest more that any other woman in the world.

One of Lydia’s personal missions is to inspire young people to open their eyes to big nature. “To enrichen your life, life needs to be embraced in some way. I have a passion for stepping out of your comfort zone, not necessarily doing big sporting things, or climbing Mount Everest. It’s about making yourself more intelligent, forging new connections in your mind, and being exposed to differences.”

“It is important for me to share my journey. I was always bad at sports, I was teased about how I walked. Everything physical was quite a challenge and scary. So for me to work in the physical world of guiding has been hard and really scary. It was a long journey and it never came easy. I tell them ‘I’ve been there, I know it’s not easy, but that’s what makes life good’.

“My approach is caring and supportive and encouraging. Awareness comes from them, it doesn’t come from me, and I have seen this growth from the whole team. In particular, I’m really proud of Sarah embracing moving over rough terrain, and she owns it now. It’s so inspiring I get a little bit emotional.

“It has been a total honour to be able to work with them. When you see this growth and potential for opening doors you don’t want to say goodbye to them. So the last day is going to be hard because I want to say, ‘let’s go have another adventure somewhere else’,” says Lydia.

Sarah said, “Lydia was really cool. She was really understanding. She let me go at my own pace. She helped me carry my bag. She was there for me, gave me words of encouragement, and she had really good conversation.”

In the Footsteps of Hillary Gallery

Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ In the Footsteps of Hillary was supported by CLM Community Sport and donors to the Inspiring Explorers™ Fund