Barbara HIllary

There is a great story in the SF Chronicle about a woman named Barbara Hillary. The headline in the print version of the Chronicle proclaims “Black woman reaches goal – North Pole.” But to me, the real story here is that Hillary is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor who hired a personal trainer and learned to ski so that she could go to the North Pole.

When I was a kid, I thought being 65 meant getting a Barcalounger and watching the soaps. Now, grammas and grampas are engaging in adventures previously thought to be the purview of the young and crazy.

Hillary, the article says, grew up in Harlem. She was a nurse and a community activist. After retirement, she battled lung cancer. By age 72, she was dog sledding in Quebec and photographing polar bears in Manitoba.


No black woman had yet reached the North Pole

When she learned that no black woman had yet reached the North Pole, she set her sights on that goal. She contacted a travel company, Eagles Cry Adventures, Inc. They get people to the North Pole in all sorts of way, including being dropped off by helicopter.

But that would be too easy for Barbara Hillary. She wanted to ski in. But she didn’t know how. “Skiing wasn’t a popular sport in Harlem,” she points out. So she signed up for cross-country skiing lessons and hired a personal trainer who helped her get fit for the trip.

Hillary faced another challenge in getting to the North Pole. The trip cost $21,000. Not one to let anything get in the way of her dream, she solicited donors and scraped together the money.

She arrived at the base camp, via Norway, and, together with her fellow travelers, pitched a tent (I don’t think my grandmother was ever in a tent, let alone pitched one). On April 23, Hillary set off on skis with two trained guides. She reached her goal:

“Standing at the top of the world, she could have cared less. The enormous expanse of ice and sky left Hillary, for once in her long life, speechless.”

Way to go, Barbara Hillary. Way to go! I can’t wait to read about your next adventure.


  1. Age is a state of mind. Jack LaLanne is 93 and still swims an hour a day and follows that up with an hour of weight training. He also gets $15,000 plus travel expenses for each personal appearance. Not bad for an old fart.

Comments are closed.