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Original Issue

Livin' It On our trans-Antarctic trek, the beauty eased the pain

Ann Bancroft, 45, of Minnesota (left) and Liv Arnesen, 47, of
Norway recently completed a 97-day, 1,700-mile journey in which
they became the first women to cross Antarctica.

The hardest part was the last stretch, after we'd reached the
South Pole. It took us 64 days to get there, much longer than we
had hoped. We rested for a day and took a shower. Then we had to
gear up for five more weeks of travel.

We replenished our food and fuel at the Pole and our sleds, which
had gotten pretty light, were back up to 250 pounds. Our faces
were blistered, we were losing toenails, and we still had to go
up to Titan Dome, a plateau where the temperature averages about
35 below. I was fighting a shoulder injury, and Liv was dealing
with bad frostbite on her hands.

I've never been so tired. There were times we felt that we
couldn't go another minute. Then we'd look out toward the horizon
and see a landscape so beautiful it invigorated us. It made us
feel we could see for 100 miles. Once we saw five separate
snowstorms swirling in the distance. We would see clear, bright
rainbows around the sun, and sometimes the land looked as if it
were made of crystals. There was sunlight 24 hours a day; it was

When the wind was good, we put on our skis and rigged sails to
our waist harnesses. We could sail 60 miles in a day. If there
was no wind, though, our sails were useless, and we'd pull our
sleds. Then we'd cover maybe 13 or 14 miles in 12 hours of
travel. We had to cross crevasses and do a lot of climbing, but
the greater danger came from our complete isolation. We were in
touch with our base in Minnesota via satellite phone, but that
was it.

To get off Antarctica, we had to cross the Ross Ice Shelf. The
Shelf is huge (about the size of France), and we could see it
ahead of us for days. We were desperately trying to get there
before the end of Antarctica's summer, on Feb. 21. When we
finally reached the Shelf on the 12th, we were excited, but we
had to continue to focus on survival, as the plane that would
take us home was still hundreds of miles away. Only later, after
an emotional phone call to 48 grade-school kids in
Minnesota--who had been following our trek from Day One on our
website ( it really sink in how much
our journey meant to others. That's when the tears started to