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Army Captain aims to become first woman to cross Antarctica unsupported

An Army medic has her sights on making history as she prepares for the first of two potentially historic Polar expeditions.

Captain Harpreet Chandi is currently training for a 700-mile solo and unsupported trek to the South Pole later this year, where she will endure temperatures as low as -50C and wind speeds of up to 60mph.

The 45-day trek will see the British-born Indian Sikh become the first woman to undertake a solo expedition in Antarctica. Whilst self-titled Polar Preet, 32, is excited about her South Pole adventure later this year, she has her sights set even higher for the future with a return to the continent to complete a solo 925-mile full and unsupported crossing within the next couple of years.

In order to prepare mentally and physically for the challenges ahead, Preet completed at 27-day expedition in Greenland where she battled some of the harshest weather conditions, including ‘whiteouts’, which she recalls was like “travelling through a marshmallow”.

There are currently very few women who have done solo and unsupported expeditions in Antarctica and currently no females that have done a full crossing solo and unsupported. Capt Preet Chandi

With no polar experience and having never been camping or hiking prior joining the Army, it was the Senior Medical Officer of her first regiment who encouraged Preet to become involved with Army Adventurous Training (AT).

“My first boss understood the benefits of AT and how I could develop my leadership skills and build my resilience. He is the first person that actually mentioned Polar expeditions to me.”

Leadership and resilience fundamentally underpin the delivery of Army AT, aimed at making people better soldiers and soldiers better people. Talking about the training that has led her to this point, Preet said: “The first Army AT course I did was the summer mountaineering foundation which developed us as a team, which is what the Army is all about.

"I hadn’t had a lot of experience on skis when I decided I wanted to do my polar expedition, which is when I booked on my Nordic Foundation course with Army AT. It gave me that experience as well as learning how to read the weather in those conditions.” 

Preet currently lives in London where she is undertaking a comprehensive training regime, involving dragging tyres to simulate pulling a sled, as well as a mixture of strength and conditioning training.

Of her training Preet said: “I’m really lucky to be working with Polar explorer Louis Rudd who is my expedition manager and has also done the solo unsupported crossing.” Former Army Captain Louis completed his crossing of the Antarctic continental land mass in 2018 and became the first Briton to do so. 

Preet, a physiotherapist with 3 Medical Regiment, based in Preston, has also been helping out with the COVID vaccination effort which she says is “really rewarding”.

Whilst her upcoming challenges will be solo and unsupported – meaning she will carry and pull all her fuel, food and kit without resupply – Preet acknowledges that there is a vast team helping to get her there. “I want to say a special thank you to the Army AT Group, Team Army and all of my supporters,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have got this far without your support, and a huge thank you to the British Army; not just for their support for this expedition but throughout my career.”