Preet Chandi completes solo journey to the South Pole

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Preet Chandi is the first woman of color to complete a solo crossing of Antarctica. Photo: SUPPLIEDPreet Chandi is the first woman of color to complete a solo crossing of Antarctica. Photo: SUPPLIED
 
 
By Antonia González
Translated by Holly Pepper

Only a handful of female adventurers have completed solo, unsupported expeditions to the white continent. The first was Norway's Liv Arnesen who skied to the South Pole in 1994, followed by France's Laurence de la Ferrière who crossed Antarctica solo. 

Others followed, such as England's Hannah McKeand who set the all-time record of reaching the pole from the coast in 39 days, and Felicity Ashton from the UK who was the first person to ski solo across Antarctica. 
 
But Preet Chandi, an Asian woman of Indian descent who was born in Britain, wanted to add more names and diversity to that list, hoping to inspire future generations to pursue their goals, push their limits and make history. And so it was that on January 3, 2022, after two years of preparation, she completed her 700-mile solo expedition in 40 days across the harsh Antarctic terrain. 
 
"Promoting and completing this challenge enables me to act as a role model for young people, women and people of color," she wrote in her social media report. She added: "I am an Asian woman; I am not the image people expect to see out there. People say the outdoors is for everyone and yes, it is. But if you come from a community that's not involved at all, or you don't see anyone who looks like you doing it, it can be very difficult."
 
In training for the feat, Chandi hiked Iceland's Langjökull glacier, ran in the Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert and spent 27 days on the Greenland ice sheet. She also spent months dragging a tire behind her in England to simulate the weight of a sled. 
 
 
The Asian mountaineer crossed Antarctica in 40 days, five days ahead of schedule. Photo: Preet ChandiThe Asian mountaineer crossed Antarctica in 40 days, five days ahead of schedule. Photo: Preet Chandi
 
 
Chandi, who joined the British Army in 2007, began the expedition on November 7, 2021 with a flight to Chile. From there she transferred to Union Glacier in Antarctica and then flew another 30 minutes to her starting point in Hercules Inlet. The first official day of her expedition was November 24.
 
From there she began the journey with an extensive trek through ice and snow, facing temperatures as low as -50 Celsius and wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour pulling a sled weighing 90 kg with all her equipment, fuel and food.
 
The mountaineer, who is an ultra-marathon runner and endurance athlete, said on her website that she didn't know much about Antarctica other than that it is known as "the coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent on Earth", which was one of the main reasons she was inspired to go there. "Nothing is impossible, I always had this idea that I can achieve something great," she said. And so, she did. 
 
Everything was documented on her website, called "Polar Preet", and she also recorded daily voice messages from the ice, which her family members posted on social media on her behalf. Each post was dedicated to a loved one or sponsor, with a note of thanks that helped the athlete stay motivated despite the adverse conditions she was facing. 
 
"I am especially proud to embark on this mission as a woman of color. I’ve been told on many occasions that I don't look like a polar explorer... let's change the image that everyone expects to see," she added.