After battling wind speeds of 60mph and temperatures as low as -40C, six women from the British Army, the Ice Maidens, have become the largest all-female group to ski across Antarctica.
The 1056-mile journey took the six-strong team a total of 62 days, having crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet early Saturday morning. The expedition was expected to take between 75 and 90 days.
Travelling up to 27 miles a day, each member of the team had to navigate crevasse fields whilst pulling sledges that weighed up to 80kg.
— Ice Maiden (@exicemaiden) January 20, 2018
Major Nics Wetherill and Major Nat Taylor, both Royal Army Medical Corps, came up with the idea in order to inspire women of all ages and abilities to push themselves in challenging conditions.
The expedition follows the same route as Felicity Aston took in 2012.
Congratulations Ice Maidens. The British Army’s Ice Maiden expedition has become the first all-female team to cross Antarctica using muscle power alone. Ordinary women doing extraordinary things. #inspitation #icemaidens #findyourantarctica @exicemaiden pic.twitter.com/lrc4knekZ0
— British Army (@BritishArmy) January 20, 2018
Over 250 applicants came forward to be part of the expedition and were put through rigorous tests both in the UK and in Norway, until they were whittled down to the final six.
Understanding that the team would face extreme conditions, and having worked previously with fellow polar explorer, Ben Saunders, on his record-breaking Scott Expedition, Mountain Equipment equipped the Ice Maidens with custom versions of the Polar Expedition Jacket and Salopette, which were originally developed for Saunders.
“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
The expedition also aimed to conduct pioneering medical research to examine how the female body copes with extreme endurance in polar environments. Such results may have far-reaching applications in the future for polar-specific expedition kit.