Five British women are aiming to become the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica in November 2017. Team Army is proud to be supporting such an inspirational challenge.
No team of women, from any nation, has attempted this feat before. It is the ultimate opportunity to show that women have the mental strength and physical endurance to operate in the most hostile environment on earth.
The Ice Maiden team will cover 1,700km using muscle-power alone, dragging a pulk and battling temperatures of -50°C and wind speeds of over 60mph during their three-month journey.
Unsupported, and with only two resupply points along the route, they will carry all the supplies and equipment needed to survive for up to 600km at a time. The Ice Maiden team are all serving in the British Army or Army Reserve.
The challenge they are attempting has been completed by only one other woman, the explorer Felicity Aston, who crossed Antarctica in 2012. Like the Maidens, Aston relied on just two resupply points along the 1,700km route, which runs from the Leverett Glacier to the Hercules Inlet via the South Pole. Weather permitting, it should take 75 days to complete.
The project was the brainchild of Major Nics Wetherill, an Army doctor from Buckingham who joined forces with fellow Army doctor Major Natalie Taylor to plan and organise this complex expedition. They then advertised for team members across the Army – the only condition: entrants had to be female. Two-hundred-and-fifty women applied.
50 were invited to a selection weekend in Wales which resulted in 22 women being invited to attend EX ICE BAMBI in Norway for a 10-day course based on the Royal Marines’ Arctic survival training. The team lived in snow holes, learnt ski touring with the Norwegian army and practised ice breaking drills: cutting a hole in a frozen lake, jumping in with rucksack and skis attached and getting themselves out.
After this, 22 became 12 and in November 2016 – after another gruelling expedition in Norway on EX ICE READY – the team was further reduced to seven. In April the team will deploy to a remote location in Norway for 14 days where the final four (plus two reserves) will be selected. Their aim now is to build strength in order to stay injury-free during the long run-up to the expedition.
The final members of the team will fly to Punta Arenas in Chile in October 2017. To follow and support their journey visit www.exicemaiden.com
ICE BREAKING DRILL:
TED TALK: by Maj Natalie Taylor, Royal Army Medical Corps
Images are (c) MOD Crown Copyright 2016 Cpl Timothy Jones