In Depth

Ice Maidens: British Army team become first women to cross Antarctica

All-female expedition makes history by completing 1,056-mile trek on foot

ice_maidens.jpg

A group of British Army soldiers has become the first all-female expedition to trek across Antarctica on foot.

Major Nicola Wetherill, Major Natalie Taylor, Captain Zanna Baker, Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson and reservists Major Sandy Hennis and Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne arrived at Hercules Inlet on Saturday morning, 62 days after setting out.

The six “Ice Maidens” had battled their way across 1,056 miles of icy plains in 60mph winds and temperatures as low as -40C, using only skis and their own muscle power to drag sledges of equipment weighing up to 176lb each.

The two months on the march meant that the Ice Maidens spent Christmas and New Year far from their loved ones - but they still managed to enjoy some festive cheer. In the team’s blog, Lieutenant Stephenson described spending Christmas Day in a tent “eating crisps (a real treat) and drinking small amounts of rum”.

“I'm just so incredibly proud of the team,” Major Wetherill told the BBC. “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.”

The six Ice Maidens were selected out of more than 250 female soldiers who applied for the expedition. They then underwent almost two years of training for the gruelling trek - where they came up with some unusual ways to pass the hours.

Before the expedition, Wetherill told The Daily Telegraph that she and Taylor were fans of BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers and “planned to make up for missing the show while in Antarctica by imagining their own storylines”.

The team’s motivational tactics clearly worked - the Ice Maidens crossed the finish line in 62 days, well under the 75 to 90 days they had allowed for the trek.

“We set what was an impossible challenge and achieved it, so anything is possible,” Major Hennis told the BBC. “I really want to inspire other women, specifically women, to get out there and do things they wouldn't normally be doing, or think would be possible.”

Army Sergeant Major Glenn Houghton, the senior non-commissioned officer in the army, was among those who commended the Ice Maidens on their success, saying there could be “no finer display of the values of the British Army”.

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