In her late 40s Rona decided to abandon her old way of life and seek
the adventure she had always craved. Since then she has successfully
circumnavigated the world in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht
Race 2000-2001 despite a major crash in Wellington.
In July 2001 Rona
was evacuated out of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island 15k from the
77k Trail end. This is one of the world’s ten toughest trails.
2003 Rona was on the winning yacht in the Round Britain Challenge.
Her first book A Challenge Too Far? was published in October
2003. It is the story of Rona’s experience of the BT Global Challenge
Round the World Yacht Race 2000-2001 – The World’s Toughest Yacht Race.
Rona works as a professional speaker sharing with corporations the
lessons she learnt on board and how they directly co-relate to the
challenges in the business world today.
Rona is British, 55 years old, divorced with two grown-up children and
lives in Oxford. She has a Diploma in Private Secretaryship and graduated
with a BA Hons in English and Geography from Oxford Brookes University in
Rona started sailing in 1994 and after a total of one month’s
sailing had an interview with Sir Chay Blyth for the BT Global Challenge.
She was one of 180 out of 4-5,000 applicants to gain a place on the Race,
15% of whom were to drop out and need replacing. The route was the ‘wrong
way’ round the world i.e. against the prevailing winds and currents and
was that first sailed by Sir Chay Blyth 30 years earlier.
after returning from the Race Rona flew to Canada to embark on her next
adventure. The West Coast Trail is also known as the Shipwreck Trail and
it takes 10 hours to cover 10k. Rona met the bears at the beginning of the
trail, met the Indians and had the company of a cougar as she waited to be
Rona was successful in the selection process to gain a
place on the Round Britain Challenge and utilised the skills learnt on the
Global Challenge to help win the Race.
Why does Rona want to spend two weeks crossing 650 kilometres of
Arctic wilderness behind a team of dogs?
“I spent my 20’s+ years wanting to travel but not having the confidence
to fulfil my ambitions. Getting divorced and graduating showed me that I
could do anything that I turned my mind to. I do not ski so going fast
over icy/snowy ground is overcoming my innermost fears – pushing my
boundaries, challenging myself. My father always believed that his
daughters could do anything they wanted to – he who did it best did it.
“I believe men and women to be equal, they just have different
strengths and weaknesses and the adventures that I have done have proven
that. As if reflecting life women are beginning to reach the top in
sailing and in climbing.
“To experience a different culture, one
where dog-sledding is the norm, will be fascinating. To learn to read the
weather in snowy conditions will be interesting and to have to rely on
ourselves in the wilderness where the terrain will be tough will make this
an expedition where fitness and stamina will play a major role. Cathy and
I are both strong characters and to see how we relate in the close
confines of a tent in sub-zero temperatures when we are cold, exhausted
and hungry will be an interesting exercise. Whereas on the Global it was
always the boat came first, this time it will be the dogs no matter how we
Rona was brought up with dogs when as a small child her father bred
Cocker Spaniels. The kennel lad would take Rona and her sister for a walk
(on reins) when he walked the puppies. When she was a teenager her family
once more had dogs and whereas the family dogs have been gentle Rona bears
the scars of being attacked by a pack of Jack Russells in her mid-teens.
Rona sailing in the Global Challenge.
Rona on her first Arctic dog-sled trip.
Cathy has been climbing mountains for 17 years, throughout southern and
central Africa, in South America, in the Alps and in the Himalaya. She
remains an active mountaineer, rock-climber and skier.
In 1996 Cathy
became the first South African to climb Everest, and in 1999 the first
woman in the world to climb Everest from both south and north sides.
2000 she became the fourth woman to climb Lhotse, the world’s fourth
In spring 2003 Cathy attempted to climb a new route
on the notorious east face of Everest. This ambitious project was
Cathy is a South African, 35 years old, married but without children,
living in Andorra. She was raised and educated in South Africa, moving to
Europe in 2000 to pursue her interest in adventure.
Cathy has a
Masters Degree in Media Studies from Rhodes University.
written two books, both about Everest. Everest: Free To Decide was
co-written with Ian Woodall. Just for the love of it is Cathy’s
story of her first three Everest expeditions.
Cathy works as a
professional speaker, sharing with corporations her lessons learnt from
Everest about teamwork and motivation. She has spoken in 22 countries on 5
Cathy was one of 200 women who applied for a place on
the famous, and controversial, 1st South African Everest Expedition of
1996, and was the one finally selected. The team followed the Edmund
Hillary route, fighting their way through ‘the worst storm in Everest’s
history’. Despite being the apprentice on the team, and having to deal
with three fellow team members walking out, on 25 May 1996 Cathy reached
the summit. It was, however, a tough introduction, as a team-mate was
killed on the descent.
In 1998 Cathy took on the challenge of the
treacherous north side of Everest, where George Mallory had famously
disappeared in 1924. Her attempt ended when she stopped to try and save a
dying American woman. In 1999 Cathy returned once more, and succeeded,
becoming the first woman in the world to climb Everest from both north and
After four expeditions to Everest, Cathy is swearing
‘no more Everest’ and looking for new challenges to tackle.
Why does Cathy want to spend two weeks crossing 650 kilometres of
Arctic wilderness behind a team of dogs?
“Having spent much of my time on foot, humping heavy loads up snowy
slopes, I am fascinated by this ancient form of travel, by the bond of
trust and courage and shared aim that must exist between person and dog to
travel together successfully.
“Adventure is a very macho field, heavily
dominated by men. And virtually all of my climbing has been done with men.
To work together closely with another woman is an additional element of
“The psychological challenge is as interesting as the
physical one. I want to know if I have got what it takes to complete this
adventure, and to do so in a spirit of friendship and good humour. I have
seen many teams crack under the pressures of the wilderness. I hope that
Rona and I have the experience, and the temperament, to meet whatever we
may encounter with grace.”
Cathy’s entire experience with dogs consists of owning a Pomeranian,
which, with all the imagination of an 8-year-old, she called Fluffy. The
Pomeranian had an illicit affair with a poodle in the park, and produced
two puppies, adding Wassit and Tapocita to Cathy’s dog team. The most
Cathy ever managed to get them to do was to run round the garden in
Cathy on the south side of Everest.
Cathy ski-mountaineering in the Pyrenees.
Per-Thore Hansen is Norwegian from Skutvik, 37 years old, married with
two children aged 7 and 2. After finishing College he joined the Army,
serving in the Norwegian Special Forces as a Paratrooper for seven years,
spending 2 years in Lebanon, 6 months in Bosnia and 3 months in Somalia.
He was in the Norwegian National Team for Cross Country Skiing when he
joined the Army. When he left the Army he took a course to become a Social
Worker and led a programme for children with drug problems. Per-Thore is
happier with a team of Huskies in the mountains than in an office. In the
winter months he guides tourists as they dog-sled around the mountains in
Sweden and Norway.
In 2000 Per-Thore took part in the Finmark Race,
the longest and hardest race in Europe covering 1000 kilometres.
2001 he took part in the Fjellreven Polar Race, 350 kilometres from Norway
to Sweden in which he finished second. In 2002 he took part in the race
again, this time winning it, and in 2003 he was
Per-Thore training with some of his dogs.