Walking across Antarctica
22nd November 2011
A woman from the UK has set off on her quest to become the first person to walk solo across the frozen continent. 33-year old Felicity Aston started her epic journey on Friday.
She is aiming to walk on skis for more than 1,000 miles and if she manages it then it will take around 70 days.
She tweeted “With the first step of my journey I start the long road home.” Earlier she said ” The quiet will take some getting used to.”
She started at the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of the Leverett Glacier
Skiing up the Leverett Glacier, through the Transantarctic mountains she will climb onto the Polar Plateau and head for the South Pole.
After collecting a re-supply of food and fuel at the Pole she will then continue across the Polar Plateau to the coast of Antarctica at the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf.
When, and if, she arrives at Hercules Inlet she will have traversed the entire Antarctic continent.
One man has done a similar feat but he used a kite to help him so he did not do it entirely under his own power.
Felicity Aston is 5’11” tall and weights around 170 pounds. She is pulling a sledge weighing more than she does at 187 pounds.
On it are her food/cooking utensils, tent/sleeping bag, first aid kit and satellite phones to call her support teams in case of emergency.
She has a solar re-charger and two MP3 players. One has music on and the other audio books.
She also has day bags that weigh 500g and contains sesame snaps, marzipan, chocolate and nuts amongst other things.
Her main food includes porridge, freeze-dried food and more chocolate. She will need to eat more than 4,000 calories each day.
That’s it for over 2 months.For the last decade she has been planning and leading expeditions to some of the coldest regions of the planet.
She’s completed the first British women’s crossing of Greenland.
She has done a 700km winter crossing of Lake Baikal in Siberia and an expedition in Iceland for young people with a brain injuries.
She was also part of the first all-female team to complete the Polar Challenge, a 360-mile endurance race to the magnetic North Pole.
So she comes with some experience.
“Not having a team around me for support and motivation is really daunting but at the same time there is something wonderfully simplistic about being alone. I’ve spent years learning more about what makes a good team and a good leader but this trip is all about understanding what it is that keeps people going when things are tough; where does that motivation and drive come from?,” is how she puts it on her web site.
Here is her last blog from South America.“After a 10-day delay in Punta Arenas, I’m finally on my way to Antarctica. I will be flying on a Russian cargo plane operated by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (along with several other expeditions who have all been waiting to get to the ice) to their base camp on Union Glacier in the Ellsworth Mountains. Even though I will be in Antarctica in just 4 or 5 hours, I still won’t be able to start my expedition immediately. First I must wait for a flight in a small ski plane to the far coast of Antarctica to my start point on the Ross Ice Shelf. As with my journey into Antarctica, this flight is completely weather dependent. Only once the plane leaves after dropping me off at the coast will I be completely alone, and then, I can start my real journey!”
She has since tweeted from the base camp: “at the basecamp on union glacier in my tent. first night on the ice. great to be here.”
We wish her all the best and will bring you news of her progress on PlanetSKI when we receive it.
Apart from the physical demands there are the mental ones and she has been training hard and receiving specialist advice from Dr Stephen Pack. He is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire specialising in Sport and Exercise Psychology.
He has studied perceptions of stress and coping, and the link between physical activity and psychological well-being.
According to a statement on Felicity Aston’s web site Dr Pack has worked with her in preparation for the months of isolation she will experience. He will also be using her podcasts and journal entries recorded during the expedition as part of his research.
He hopes to chart her mental as well as physical journey in order to learn something about what motivates individuals to achieve.
There are around 500 people in 30 teams planning on trekking in Antarctica this winter and many hope to make it to the South Pole on Decemebr 13th.
That is the centenary of the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, reaching the pole ahead of Britain’s Captain R.F. Scott.
For news of another British female pushing her limits in Antarctica see this PlanetSKI story on Amelia Hempleman-Adams.
She is the 16-year old daughter of the explorer David Hempleman-Adams and is walking to The South Pole with her father.
For the spirit of the mountains