Words by Mountain Equipment
Last night, after two years of arduous training and selection six British Army women departed from Heathrow Airport, beginning the process of a record-breaking attempt to cross Antarctica, unsupported, coast-to-coast in under three months. Introducing the Ice Maidens.
Exercise Ice Maidens Antarctica Expedition
A six-strong team are making history this week by becoming the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across the Antarctic continent, fully unsupported.
Known as the Ice Maidens, the unique team is formed of serving members of the British Army, or Army Reserves, and were carefully chosen after a rigorous and unrelenting selection process that spanned a two-year period.
The team landed in their temporary Chilean base from Heathrow Airport last night in preparation for the three-month long expedition.
The route itself follows the same record-breaking Antarctic crossing by Felicity Aston in 2012, and will cover a distance of 1700km, where battles against plummeting temperatures, down to -50 degrees Celsius and wind speeds of over 60mph are the norm.
With only two resupply points throughout the entire route, all supplies and equipment the women need to survive between points (that’s almost 600km a time) will be pulled on sledges weighing up to 80kg.
This is no small task. And the training involved that went into the final selection process was a sure-fire way to whittle down the fittest from over 250 applicants. From crevasse rescue training and ice breaking drill in Norway, to marathon training and days on the hill, every year over the past two years for these women has been a moment of exhaustive training.
The aims of the expedition? To inspire a new era of female expeditionary spirit, whilst providing and promoting winter survival skills and qualifications, and encouraging women and girls of all ages to take up a challenge, get active and get outdoors. The Ice Maiden exercise is an entirely unique expedition, with far-reaching and positive implications for women and men in the outdoor industry as a whole.
Extreme environment’s call for purpose-made kit. For the Ice Maidens, trekking in extreme sub-zero temperatures for extended periods meant that non-specific polar expedition clothing would not suffice.
The Polar Expedition Jacket and Polar Expedition Salopette began with the development of custom suits for Ben Saunders and Tarka’s record breaking Scott Expedition, and then went on to receive further input from some of the world’s most experienced polar travellers and guides.
“This was the type of project that made me want to be a designer to begin with, highly specialised kit for the most serious use. Polar gear is famous for its lack of innovation and there was a significant opportunity to use modern fabrics, construction and design to produce something much better and more functional than what’s currently available.” – Sam Stephenson, Head of Design and Development
Visit the Ice Maidens website for more information about the expedition and stay up-to-date on their location.