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British soldier claims record for fastest woman to ski alone across Antarctica

British soldier claims record for fastest woman to ski alone across Antarctica

A British Army medical officer has said she has become the fastest woman to ski alone across Antarctica.

Capt Harpreet Chandi broke two Guinness world records for polar exploration last year and now claims she has broken a third.

She covered the 1,130km (702 miles) of Antarctic ice in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes, beating the previous record holder, the Canadian Caroline Cote, by one day, 14 hours and 34 minutes.

She left Hercules Inlet on the Ronne ice shelf on 26 November and arrived at the south pole at 2.24am UK time on Thursday.

Guinness World Records still needs to verify the record, which can take several months.

Speaking from the south pole, Chandi said: “I’m tired but so glad I made it. This was completely different to my last expedition. I completely pushed myself to my limits on my last expedition, a speed attempt is completely different. After my last expedition, I knew I could cope well on the ice which gave me the confidence to tackle this head on.”

Chandi at the south pole. Photograph: Harpreet Chandi/PA

She skied for between 12 and 13 hours a day on average and pulled a 75kg sled containing everything she needed to survive behind her.

Chandi added: “It was definitely not a sprint, but I had to constantly weigh up my effort and how long I would ski for each day. Too long or too fast and I was going to burn out. Too slow or finish too early and I’d miss out on the record.

“Antarctica is an amazing place to be and it’s an absolute privilege to be here. It is not a place any person can conquer, it is a place you treat with respect and hope it allows you safe passage. I’m so glad it allowed me safe passage.

“I just focused on what I could control, I couldn’t control the conditions – the blistering sun, the whiteouts, the temperatures of -30C – but I can control how I dealt with them. Just keep taking it one step at a time.”

Chandi, from Derby, is on a career break from military service where she was a physiotherapist providing rehabilitation for injured soldiers and officers. She first made history by becoming the first woman of colour to complete a 700-mile Antarctic journey, solo and unsupported, to the south pole.

Returning the following year, she broke two world records including completing the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski expedition. She was recently made an MBE and was named woman of the year at the Women in Defence awards 2022.

After breaking two world records, she did not expect to return to Antarctica this year but soon found herself “dreaming up the next challenge”. She said: “This expedition is not only about only pushing myself, but also about inspiring others to challenge their boundaries, and break their barriers. It’s in those tough moments when you find out what you’re made of.

“One of my biggest motivations in those dark times on the ice is the thought of inspiring others to face their own challenge. When I make myself accountable to a bigger purpose, how could I not continue!”

Chandi will return to the UK soon to recover and plan her next adventure. “We all know what happens when I say ‘never again’,” she said.

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