Polar Pioneer: Charismatic cancer survivor achieves historic first

Barbara Hillary trekked to the North Pole at age 75. At 79, she weathered -40°F temperatures to reach the South Pole. Now 81, the retired nurse and lung cancer survivor can stir a room with rousing tales of her adventures as the first African-American woman to reach the ends of the earth.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

Barbara Hillary trekked to the North Pole at age 75. At 79, she weathered -40°F temperatures to reach the South Pole. Now 81, the retired nurse and lung cancer survivor can stir a room with rousing tales of her adventures as the first African-American woman to reach the ends of the earth.

Aug.2 at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, she riled a capacity crowd at The North Face with her witty insight and sharp tongue, dropping lines more worthy of a stone and chisel than a keyboard and paper.

Get more wit and wisdom at www.barbarahillary.com. Here are some of Hillary's great Outdoor Retailer Summer Market quotes:

  • “I love the idea of doing the unheard of.”
  • “Without dreams, I never would have gotten to the North or South Pole. Thanks heavens I’m a dreamer.” 
  • “All you have to do it dream it and do it.”
  • “I’m not advocating that you go to the North Pole. It’s a rough trip. But I am advocating that you have a North Pole goal. A North Pole dream.”
  • “The more I traveled north, the more interesting people I met.”
  • “A sense of humor will keep you young.”
  • “If you wait for people to do things in this world, you will do nothing.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to do what people say you should not do.”
  • On standing atop the North Pole: “I can’t articulate [the feeling]. The cold sweat. The nerves. Every human emotion of accomplishment.”
  • On dedicating her trip to the North Pole to her mother: “Never get so big you forget the bridge that ferried you across. Someone helped you go in the right direction to become the person you are today.”
  • On weathering dangerously cold temps at the South Pole: “Your dreams make you tough.”
  • When asked if she was ready to pose for the portrait on today’s O.R.D cover:“Will this be with or without clothes?”

--Jason Blevins


Following in her footsteps

In June 2013, the National Outdoor Leadership School will lead a record number of minority youth up Mt. McKinley, which at 20,328 feet is North America’s peak. The Expedition Denali mission hopes that the story will encourage more minorities to pursue a life and career in the outdoors. Many from Expedition Denali rallied at The North Face booth Thursday to hear Hillary speak. They left fortified.

“Her story in and of itself is a testament to what people can do when they put their mind to it,” said James Mills, a journalist helping organize Expedition Denali. “Things are starting to change for people of color in this industry. Barbara’s story showed us it’s possible.”

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