British Ice Maidens become first all-female group to cross Antarctica unpowered


A team of British soldiers has become the first all-female group to cross Antarctica using only muscle power.

After spending 62 days on the ice, the British Army’s Ice Maiden Expedition crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet just before 10am on Saturday.

The team of six, led by Major Nics Wetherill and Major Natalie Taylor – both of the Royal Army Medical Corps – travelled up to 27 miles (43km) a day, navigating crevasse fields whilst pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg (176lbs) and battling temperatures as low as minus 40C (minus 40F).

They started on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on November 20 and climbed up the Transantarctic Mountains, via the Leverett Glacier, to reach the polar plateau.

After a re-supply at the South Pole, they started heading towards Hercules Inlet.

They skied 373 miles (600km) across uneven ground and spent Christmas Day on the ice before reaching their final re-supply point at the base of the Thiel Mountains.

From there they descended to the Hercules Inlet and the finish line.

Speaking after crossing the line, Major Wetherill said: “I’m just so incredibly proud of the team. I can’t believe how far we’ve come.

“This journey has had good times, bad times and great times for all concerned, and each of them, I know, has made us better people.

“I now know my five companions so well as to be able to almost tell just from the back of their heads whether they are smiling or crying, although determining this when facing them can be just as difficult with their faces obscured by hoods, goggles and masks.”

The six-strong group set off from the Ross Ice Shelf in November (British Army/PA)

The other four members of the team were reservist Major Sandy Hennis of the Royal Signals, Captain Zanna Baker and Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson, both of the Royal Artillery, and Honourable Artillery Company reservist Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne.

Major Taylor added: “I have spent the last few days trying to imprint this beautiful landscape in my mind. We have called it home for close to two months now and I will, in a strange way, miss it a lot.

“The snow sparkles like there is a layer of pearls on the surface and everywhere you look there is beauty and stillness. The photos just don’t do it justice.”

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