Named “One of the Great Explorers for the 20th Century” by National Geographic, Helen Thayer climbed her first mountain at the age of nine, summiting the 8,200 foot high Mt. Taranaki in her native New Zealand with her parents and family friend Sir Edmund Hillary (who later became the first person to summit Mt. Everest).
Thayer started her athletic career in track and field and luge. Despite her 5’3” frame, she became a world-class discus thrower, representing New Zealand, Guatemala, and the United States in international track and field competitions. In 1975, she won the U.S. Luge National title.
In 1988, at the age of 50, Thayer became the first woman to walk solo to the magnetic North pole, pulling her own sled, without the aid of re-supply, sled dogs or snowmobiles. She has crossed on foot the Mohave, American and Mexican Sonoran deserts along with Death Valley. In 1990 she served as team leader of the first Soviet-American Women’s Arctic Expedition to Siberia.
In 1996 Helen became the first woman to cross the Sahara Desert on foot, traveling an ancient camel trade route. In 1997 she walked solo for 450 miles in Antarctica, pulling her own 260 pound sled and celebrating her 60th birthday alone on the polar ice cap with a frozen cupcake. In 2001 at the age of 63, Helen and her 74-year-old husband Bill trekked 1,600 miles west to east across the Mongolian Gobi Desert in up to 126 degree heat. At age 70, she kayaked 1,200 miles on the Amazon River.
Helen Thayer was named The Everett’s Herald’s Woman of the Year in Sports in 1989. In 1999, she was among the honorees at a White House reception where then President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton honored “Pioneer Women in Sports”. In 2006 she was a recipient of the Explorers Club Vancouver Award. She is also an accomplished photographer and best-selling author and a sought after motivational speaker.