Originally created 01/27/99

Three-man team of trekkers reaches the South Pole



SCOTT BASE, Antarctica -- Hauling 395-pound sleds, Peter Hillary, son of Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, reached the South Pole with two other ski trekkers Tuesday after an Antarctic journey beset by problems.

Hillary and his father, who was also part of a trans-Antarctica expedition in the 1950s, are the first father and son to reach the bottom of the world.

"Now that I've got here, everything seems worth it," he said after his team reached the United States' Amundsen-Scott base. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

The New Zealander and his two Australian companions had hoped to ski trek from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and return without airdrops or any other outside support.

But that goal was abandoned two weeks ago, after howling winds, blinding blizzards, unbelievable cold, illness and frostbite delayed their journey so often the trio had to receive food from a helicopter from the U.S. base.

In a telephone interview with TVNZ, a New Zealand television station, Hillary said: "The American people at the South Pole have been most hospitable. A hundred of them came out and cheered. They've given us a wonderful meal."

Besides conquering the South Pole, Peter Hillary also has duplicated his father's famous 1953 ascent of Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

"Congratulations, Peter, on this marvelous achievement of reaching the Pole," Sir Edmund Hillary told his son in a message.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II also praised the trio "on your notable achievement," in a message read to them on their Iridium mobile phone as they stood at the pole.

Hillary said it was "a marvelous feeling" to have ski trekked more than 875 miles from the Antarctic coast to the pole through all sorts of obstacles.

The same problems that eventually killed British explorer Robert F. Scott and his companions during their 1911-12 bid to march to the South Pole and back thwarted this attempt by Hillary and teammates Eric Philips and Jon Muir.

On Wednesday, the three are expected to fly to New Zealand's Scott Base on Ross Island, where their journey began. From there, the trekkers will return to New Zealand.

Currently, top government officials from 24 countries are meeting in Antarctica to discuss the continent and the threats that it faces, including a fishing dispute and a tourism boom.

During his interview from the South Pole, Hillary was asked if he had ever feared his team wouldn't make it to the pole.

"I thought I may not make it during the storms and with temperatures at 58 below," he said. "But I guess you have to see it through. You have to stick with it."