British Army physio Polar Preet has smashed expectations by completing her expedition to the South Pole almost a week ahead of schedule.
Skiing the 700 miles across Antarctica from Hercules Inlet in just 40 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes – a daily average distance of around 17 miles - she came tantalisingly close to setting a new world record by a woman for the trek.
Already creating history as the first woman of colour to complete a solo crossing on the continent, she narrowly missed out on another milestone, the time set by Johanna Davidsson of Sweden who finished in 38 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes in 2016.
Preet is now the third fastest female solo skier for this expedition behind Davidsson and Britain’s Hannah McKeand who recorded a time of 39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes in 2006. She is also the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years.
Enduring temperatures as low as -50C, wind speeds of up to 60mph, while pulling a 90kg sled – often over sastrugi (parallel wave-like ridges on the hard snow caused by winds), and battling through whiteouts, Preet suffered from exhaustion towards the end of the journey, as well as a persistent cough and sickness.
I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.” Polar Preet
Preet, 32, a captain with 3 Medical Regiment, said: “I’m feeling so many emotions right now. I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here. It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.
“This expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labeled a rebel.
“I have been told 'No' on many occasions and to ‘just do the normal thing’, but we create our own normal. You are capable of anything you want.
“No-matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.”
The expedition had been expected to take between 45 and 48 days.
Steve Jones, Expeditions Manager at Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions said: “In a season in which a number of other South Pole expeditions have failed to reach their goals, Preet’s solo achievement is a standout success.”
She is an inspiration to us all and a fabulous role model" Brigadier Faithull-Davies
Brigadier Faithfull-Davies CBE, Commander 102 Logistic Brigade, said: “I have been watching Polar Preet's Antarctic endeavours with admiration and awe as I have seen her maintain incredible distances and pace every single day of her expedition.
“Her engaging podcasts on her website have brought to life the arduous conditions and her extreme endurance, she is a truly remarkable woman.
“She set out with an aim to complete her trek in 45 days, though sensibly carrying extra rations for 48 days, a pace that defies my imagination given the terrain and weather.
“I am absolutely delighted to hear that she has achieved her ambition of reaching the South Pole and so proud that she has demonstrated how much we can all achieve if we set our minds to it.
“She is an inspiration to us all and she is a fabulous role model as the first woman of colour to complete this impressive feat. I would like to send her my heartfelt congratulations for this amazing achievement.”
All photos copyright: Preet Chandi