The Countess of Wessex met up with a brave team of six women at RMA Sandhurst recently, as they begin the final countdown for an expedition that will see them, hopefully, be the first all-female team to ski coast to coast across Antarctica crossing the South Pole. The route will take them from the Leverett Glacier to the Hercules inlet with two resupply points along the route which is about 1700 km, which they will have to ski, pulling all their equipment behind them on sledges.
The route has been taken before, by the English explorer, Felicity Aston in 2012. However, she did have an advantage over this team in that she had already spent time in the Antarctic as a scientist. In addition to this trip, she had taken part in several challenges in both the Arctic and Antarctic sometimes on her own and other times as part of a team.
These six women are all serving members of either British Army or Army Reserve. This final countdown follows two years of gruelling training and preparation which has seen the original two hundred applicants be whittled down to these elite six. They will have to battle temperatures down to -50o C in some of the most extreme weather conditions on earth, but this expedition has been methodically planned. One of the team, Captain Zanna Baker, said: “We will be pulling for up to 10 hours a day. That’s nine stints of one hour of skiing, in between, we’ll have five minutes of break, in which we will have to do everything.”
The Countess of Wessex who is the Patron of the expedition, and has been involved in some lesser but still demanding expeditions of her own, said “It’s hugely exciting and hopefully, every time we see brave women like this doing something interesting and different. It is going to encourage other people to get inspired and to do something themselves“.
We must not forget the valuable work both the Earl and Countess have done as they assume the mantle of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.