Inspiring Explorers Sarah Magele, Jaylee Savage, guide Lydia Bradey, and Inspiring Explorer A’aifou Potemani on the summit of Mount Ollivier. © AHT/Anna Clare
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, and their exploits were filmed for a children’s television show.
Antarctic Heritage Trust partnered with Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otarato 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.
Sir Edmund Hillary described climbing Mount Ollivier as, “My happiest day I have ever spent…my new enthusiasm for the mountains went home with me and gave me little rest.” This was a sentiment echoed by Inspiring Explorers Sarah Magele, Jaylee Savage, and A’aifou Potemani after achieving the same feat.
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.”
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.
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.”
Inspiring Explorers Jaylee Savage and A’aifou Potemani near the summit of Mount Ollivier. © AHT/Anna Clare
“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.”
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 about is 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 preparation for climbing Mt Ollivier, the Inspiring Explorers™ have undertaken fitness training sessions with New Zealand rugby league legend Ruben Wiki at his Wiki Works Gym in Ōtara, South Auckland. 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.
“I started training for this almost a year ago. Training with Reuben Wiki was pretty cool, knowing that he used to go to our school too. My team really encouraged me to be there every training session even though sometimes I didn’t really want to. They were fun,” said Sarah. By challenging themselves and embracing the unknown, just as Sir Edmund Hillary did before them, these Inspiring Explorers™ have developed skills that will influence their life’s path.
“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 Sarah Magele. © AHT/Anna Clare
Inspiring Explorer Jaylee Savage. © AHT/Anna Clare
Inspiring Explorer A’aifou Potemani. © AHT/Anna Clare