First woman of colour to reach South Pole sets sights on Antarctica

Army officer who became first woman of colour to trek to South Pole now plans to be first woman to cross all of Antarctica on her own

  •  Captain Preet Chandi, 33, previously trekked 700 miles in 40 days to South Pole
  •  ‘Polar Preet’ has now set her sights on travelling more than 1,000 miles unaided 
  •  She will have to endure temperatures of up to minus 50C and winds of 60mph

An intrepid Army officer who embarked on a historic trek to the South Pole is now hoping to become the first woman to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of Antarctica.

Captain Preet Chandi, a British Army medical officer, became the first woman of colour to complete a solo, unaided trip to the South Pole in January after she trekked 700 miles in 40 days.

The 33-year-old – also known as ‘Polar Preet’ – said that she is now training for ‘phase two’ of her expedition, which will involve travelling more than 1,000 miles, enduring temperatures of up to minus 50C and wind speeds of up to 60mph, and pulling a sledge alongside her kit.

The coast-to-coast journey, which she plans to begin in October, is expected to take around 75 days.

Captain Preet Chandi, 33, has set her sights on crossing 1,000 miles across Antarctica unaided

The British Army medical officer became the first woman of colour to complete a solo unaided trip to the South Pole earlier this year and now hopes to make history again

Preet, from Derby, will be taking a few months of leave from the Army at the end of the year for her expedition.

In an Instagram post announcing the expedition, she said: ‘Why did I go to Antarctica in the first place and why am I going back?

‘I wanted to show that no matter where we are from, no matter what we look like, we can achieve anything we want.

‘I want to inspire others to push their boundaries and encourage them to believe in themselves. I want to break that glass ceiling!’

The Army physiotherapist, who has served in the likes of South Sudan, has shared further updates on her trip, writing on her blog that she is ‘doing so many things now that I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of even 5 years ago… don’t limit yourself.’

Preet pictured smiling on her historic 700-mile solo trek to the South Pole earlier this year  

Her daily training routine includes cardio and strength training, as well as dragging tyres to replicate the weight of her sledge.

When she completed her 700-mile journey to the South Pole earlier this year, Preet said it felt ‘surreal’.

For that feat, she had dragged a 190lb sled for 45 days alone en route to tackling her epic challenge that saw her complete a 700-mile trek in just 40 days.

The London-based servicewoman, who serves in a Medical Regiment in the north-west of England, began her epic trek on November 24, 2021 after flying to the ice cap from Chile in South America. 

The adventurous 33-year-old had to drag a 190lb sled for 45 days in minus 50C temperatures 

She sent out daily blog posts and pictures, revealing how she skied for around 11 hours each day – and having to ‘laugh it off’ each time she falls over due to the icy conditions. 

Using live-tracking data to keep friends, family and followers updated on her route, Preet completed her extraordinary quest on January 3. 

After completing her journey, she shared an inspirational message: ‘I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here. 

‘It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.

This expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labelled a rebel. 

‘I have been told no on many occasions and told to “just do the normal thing”, but we create our own normal. You are capable of anything you want. 

‘No-matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling, I want to smash it into a million pieces.’ 

The British-born Indian Sikh said she hopes to inspire other Asian women with her historic feat.

After flying from Punta Arenas in Chile to Antarctica’s Union Glacier, Preet set off from Hercules Inlet on the southern edge of Ronne Ice Shelf, 702 miles from the South Pole

She revealed she had eggs thrown at her when she was a teenager because she ‘looked different’. 

In one blog post she wrote: ‘It took me a long time to be proud of the colour of my skin. I used to be embarrassed, having eggs thrown at me and people spit at me when I was a teenager because I “looked different” certainly didn’t help. 

‘It took me a while to appreciate my culture and my roots, so when I describe myself as a “woman of colour” it is because I am finally proud of my skin colour, my roots, my culture. 

‘This term isn’t used to offend anyone. It is part of me and doing this expedition as a woman of colour is incredibly powerful. Having been told on many occasions that I don’t look like a polar explorer… lets change the image you expect to see.’

She told the Army before setting off: ‘When I decided I wanted to go to Antarctica, I didn’t know I would be the first woman of colour to do a solo expedition on the continent and people have said to me, “You don’t look like a polar explorer”.

But sport and competition has always been in her blood, leaving home at 14 to play tennis at an academy, before joining the Novak Djokovic Academy in Czech Republic just two years later.  

She is also an ultramarathon runner and has completed some of the world’s most gruelling challenges, including the 156-mile Marathon des Sables across the Sahara desert last year.

The other inspiring British women who smashed Antarctica records

Mollie Hughes (pictured at Edinburgh Airport after becoming the world’s youngest woman to climb Mount Everest from both sides in 2017), 29, who lives in Edinburgh, is became the youngest woman to ski alone to the South Pole in 2019

British women appear to have a thing for conquering Antarctica – and setting records along the way.

Briton Felicity Aston was the first woman to ski alone across the ice cap back in 2012. 

The record-breaking adventurer completed her exhausting journey over the icy continent on January 23 of that year after 59 days of pulling two sledges for 1,084 miles.

She tweeted that she had made it to Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf, after finally completing her journey which started from the Leverett Glacier on November 25, 2011.

Aston, from Kent, also set another record for the first human to ski solo across Antarctica using only her own muscle power.

A male-female team already combined to ski across Antarctica without kites or machines to pull them across, but Aston was the first to do this alone. 

More recently, Edinburgh-based adventurer Mollie Hughes, 29, became the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole in January 2020. 

Ms Hughes skied for 58.5 days pulling all her food in a sledge during her lone trek across Antarctica, before confirming she had reached the geographic South Pole via Twitter. 

Ms Hughes, who is originally from Devon, hauled 105kg on the 702-mile journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. 

She described her expedition, which began on November 13, 2019, as ‘extremely tough’ due to ‘extreme’ conditions.

Having initially hoped to reach the South Pole by New Year’s Day, she was almost derailed by the weather in the first two weeks.

She faced headwinds of more than 55knots, temperatures of -45C and a whiteout for eight days in a row.

Ms Hughes had already become the world’s youngest woman to climb Mount Everest from both sides in 2017.    

She said at the time of her first expedition: ‘I think it’s really important to show diversity and increase that diversity just to show this is possible and it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your background is or what you look like, you can achieve something like this.

‘It might not be the norm, I might not be the image that you’d expect to see doing something like this, but I think it’s important to break out of what people expect to be the norms… if enough people do something new, it becomes normal.’

According to the Army, Preet had never even been camping before signing up to the force.

Since then, she has been mountaineering and wild camping in Wales and spent months learning polar navigation and sled-pulling in Norway. 

The super-fit squaddie has also hiked in the likes of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru.  

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