British Army physio ‘Polar’ Preet has made the furthest unsupported solo Polar ski expedition in history.
Stretching the boundaries of human endeavour, she covered 922 miles (1,485 km) in 70 days and 16 hours despite horrendously difficult conditions.
The 33-year-old Army Captain surpassed the previous world record of 907 miles (1,459.8 km) set by fellow soldier Henry Worsley, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, in 2015. He was picked up from the ice 126 miles (202 km) short of completing a crossing of Antarctica and, following illness, tragically lost his life in hospital in Chile.
Preet said: “It feels incredible to have travelled such a distance, though it was always about so much more than a record. I'm just grateful that Antarctica allowed me safe passage for my journey.
“It was a lot tougher than last year's expedition - the toughest thing I've ever done. I had a heavier pulk and the conditions were harder this season but I felt it was important to keep going.”
Severely adverse conditions prevented Preet from completing her own coast-to-coast target, around 100 miles from where she was picked up, despite skiing for 13-15 hours per day with as little as five hours sleep on some days. But even when it became clear her ultimate goal was out of reach, she refused to give up and remained determined to see how far she could push herself.
“Mentally, it was tough knowing I didn't have enough time to make the crossing but the expedition was about pushing my boundaries and inspiring others to do the same, so how could I not continue?
“I’m disappointed I ran out of time to make the crossing of Antarctica, but I did everything I could. I didn’t take a day off and pushed as hard as possible every day.
“I’m proud that I kept going when it was tough, and I thought I couldn’t do any more. I wanted to keep pushing my own boundaries and inspire others to do the same, so how could I not continue?”
Preet hasn't yet thought about whether she will attempt that crossing again and is looking forward to having time to recover.
She added: “I have a full-time job in the Army and using all of my spare time and leave to train feels like having two jobs.
“I took unpaid leave from the Army to do this expedition and I'm grateful I was able to take time off. Although the idea didn't come from the Army, I don't think I would have had the idea if I wasn't in the Army.
I feel as though I have built my resilience from being in the Army. Captain Preet Chandi
“I feel as though I have built my resilience from being in the Army and definitely got used to stepping out of my comfort zone.
“The more I did in the Army, the more I started to do in my spare time too and, the more you do, the more you realise you are capable of.”
Preet said all the support she has received has helped her enormously.
“To everyone, your support means everything. Thanks you so much for coming on this journey with me. I knew I was not alone and you were with me every step of the way.”
The previous longest unsupported solo female distance record was 858 miles (1,381 km) posted by Anja Blacha from Germany, skiing from Berkner Island to the South Pole in 2019.
During the course of her epic expedition, of which HRH The Princess of Wales is patron, she also became the first woman to have skied solo to the South Pole twice. She managed this in just 12 months
Three expeditions started their planned traverses this season, and Preet is the only one who did not stop at the South Pole, ploughing on until being picked up close to the top of Reedy Glacier. The trek saw her pulling all her kit and supplies on a sledge (pulk), weighing around 120kg (19 stone), while battling temperatures in the low -30s, which with wind chill can feel like -50, and wind speeds of up to 60 mph.
Steve Jones, expedition manager for Antarctic Logistics Expeditions (ALE), said: “Preet’s aim of skiing more than 1,700 km across Antarctica alone and without resupply is one of the most physically demanding challenges on Earth.
She has pushed the boundaries of human endeavour. Steve Jones, Expedition Manager,
Antarctic Logistics Expeditions
“Although she ran out of time after almost 71 hard days and did not complete the last leg of the planned route down the Reedy Glacier to the Ross Ice Shelf, she has skied further unsupported and alone than anyone in history. Her indomitable courage and determination are quite remarkable she has pushed the boundaries of human endeavour.”
Lieutenant General Sharon Nesmith, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, said: “The British Army is immensely proud of Captain Chandi. To achieve what she has in the face of extremely arduous conditions and battle on bravely, refusing to give up, and to be the best she can possibly be is a huge inspiration to so many around the world.
A huge inspiration to so many around the world. Lieutenant General Sharon Nesmith, Deputy Chief of the General Staff
“Her story is compelling and shows just how far we can reach if we want something enough. Her blog detailing her journey on this second phase of her Antarctic adventures is captivating and took us on her journey with her. For anyone yet to do so, I would heartily recommend visiting her website.
“My most heartfelt congratulations Captain Chandi. Your determination, courage and commitment are exemplary, and you are a credit to the British Army.”
In January last year, Preet created history by becoming the first woman of colour to reach the South Pole solo and unsupported. She did so in 40 days, just short of the female world record. Preet, who is based with Regional Rehabilitation Unit, Halton, won both Woman of the Year and the Inspirational category at this year’s Women in Defence Awards.