Antarctica: The women setting new records

Women are pushing the boundaries on the great white wilderness that is Antarctica

Make no bones about it, Antarctica is a continent that kills. “It’s a place that wants you dead,” said polar explorer Robert Swan, who walked Captain Scott’s route to the South Pole in 1985. “Scott found that out 100 years ago.”

The hazards are numerous: silent, awaiting crevasses, dense katabatic winds and ferocious storms, but more than anything it’s the constant, inescapable, wearing cold that is the danger. Even in the summer months, temperatures hover around -30C. Make a single mistake and it punishes you.

In this harshest of environments, four women have just skied solo to the South Pole – more female soloists than in any year in the history of Antarctic travel. Three British women, Wendy Searle, Mollie Hughes and Jenny Wordsworth, skied 1130km from Hercules Inlet on the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole. German Anja Blacha opted for a route some 225km longer, from Berkner Island on the Ronne Ice Shelf.

‘No person who has not spent a period of their life in those ‘stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole’ will understand fully what trees, flowers, sun-flecked turf and running streams mean to the soul.’ Shackleton. 42 days, 16 hours, 23 minutes. Solo, unsupported and unassisted. 7th woman to complete Hercules Inlet to South Pole. First soloist this season.

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