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Polar Explorers

Types of Challenge: Solo, unsupported, supported, team, group.

Method: Skies, Bike, Kite Sailing

Where: The North Pole is found in the Arctic Ocean. The South Pole is located on Antarctica. 

Women in Polar Research: A Brief HistoryBy Morgan Seag 


Women in most countries remained barred from participating in “official” polar expeditions until the mid-20th century: either directly through institutional policies, or indirectly through lack of access to prerequisite training and credentials.

Most field opportunities in both the Antarctic and Arctic remained closed to women throughout the 1960s. In some cases, prohibitions persisted for several decades, with the official reason often given as a lack of facilities for women. 

The number of women entering the field increased in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and women’s presence slowly became “normalized” in polar research communities. 


For Polar Expeditions. The progression would generally be: Svalbard, Greenland and then onto either the North or South Pole. You need to have some sort of glacier experience before you can go to the poles. 

  • Hercules Inlet-South Pole* – 730 miles / 1170 km

  • Messner Start-South Pole – 580 miles / 934 km

  • Cape Evans-Beardmore-South Pole-return – 1800-miles / 2900km

  • Ross Ice Shelf-Leverett Glacier-South Pole – 314 miles / 506 km

  • Novolazarevskaya-South Pole-Hercules Inlet 2050 miles / 3300 km

*Hercules Inlet is the recognised start point on the geographical coastline ie the official start point for records.


1st woman to reach both the South and North Pole - Ann Bancroft

1st All women team to reach the South Pole - led by Ann Bancroft (1992 - 1993)

1st women to ski across Antarctica - Ann Bancroft & Liv Arnesen 2001

1st woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South pole - Liv Arnesen - 50 days, 745 miles 1994

South Pole - Speed Record - current women’s speed record of 38 days, 23 hours, and 5 minutes, held by Johanna Davidsson (Sweden) Hercules Inlet – South Pole – Hercules Inlet.

Wendy Searle is going after the speed record in 2022/2023.

2nd fastest woman - Hannah McKeand from Great Britain (39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes in 2006)

Felicity Aston MBE - In 2012, she became the first person to ski alone across the Antarctic land-mass using only personal muscle power, as well as the first woman to cross the Antarctic land-mass alone - * supported challenge - 2 supply drops. 59 days


Preet Chandi - is attempted this is 2022/2023 - however she is aiming to do it unsupported with no resupply. Approx 75 days.

*** TEAMS ***

2017 - Expedition Ice Maiden, made up of British Army or Army Reserve women, completed a trans-antarctic crossing of over 1,000 miles (1609 km). 61 Days. Aimed to raise the profile of women in the British Army and assist with recruitment.

November 2023 - Antarctic Fire Angels - 5 women will ski to the South Pole to inspire women and girls to achieve their ambitions. The journey will be unsupported. 1,130km, approx 45 days. 

Website -

Instagram - @antarcticfireangels


South Pole - Solo Expeditions 



Preet Chandi MBE- . Started 7th November 2021 - finished the 3rd January 2022.

40 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes making her the third fastest solo woman to reach the South Pole unassisted


Jenny Davis - 43 days - Nov 2019- Jan 2020 - Starting at Hercules Inlet. 

Mollie Hughes - youngest woman to reach the South Pole - 58.5 days from Hercules Inlet reaching the South Pole - 10th January 2020

Wendy Searle - 7th solo, unsupported female to ever ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, completing it in the 4th fastest time – 42 days and 16 hours. 2020

Anja Blacha - reached the South Pole January 9th 2020 after 57 days, 18 hours and 50 minutes, completing her solo, unsupported expedition from Berkner Island. Record for the longest solo, unsupported, unassisted polar expedition. 1st woman - 5th person to ski solo and unsupported from Berkner Island to the South Pole. 



Maria Leijerstam became the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the continent in 2013


1996 - Mountaineer and writer Laurence de la Ferrière is the first French woman to cross the Antarctic solo. She covers the distance from the Weddell Sea to the Amundsen-Scott base at temperatures around -40C (- 40F), while dragging a 150 kg (310 lb) sledge.

2008 - Namira Salim, explorer and artist, is the first Pakistani to have reached the South Pole

2011 - Barbara Hillary - first African-American woman to reach the South Pole (and North Pole in 2007).

2018 - Jade Hameister - youngest person to complete the "polar hat-trick" - North Pole, Greenland Crossing and the South Pole. 

In 2016, she skied to the North Pole
In 2017, she completed the Greenland Crossing. 
In 2018, she arrived at the South Pole. 

* The first Australian woman in history to ski coast to Pole unsupported and unassisted
* The first woman to set a new route to the South Pole - 600 km from the Ross Ice Shelf at the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. She completed the trek in 37 days and reached the South Pole on 10 January 2018.
* The youngest to ski to both Poles


Companies: ALE is the leader in polar expeditions and the premier provider of deep-field experiences, private retreats & logistical services supporting responsible tourism in Antarctica.

They also do Expedition Updates - see below! 

2022 - Expected in Jan 2023

2021 Expedition Review - 

2020 - No expedition review

2019 Expedition Review -  (4 women!!)

2018 Expedition Review -

2017 Expedition Review -

2016 Expedition Review -

2015 Expedition Review - (No Women)

2014 Expedition Review - (No Women)

2013 Expedition Review - (2x couples)

2012 Expedition Review - (No women)

2011 Expedition Review - 

Borge Ousland Company -

Newland Expeditions - 

- Helen Turton (Manager and Expedition leader - UK) - has been highly recommended by multiple people. 

Antarctica More info:

Antarctic Heritage Trust -


Other locations to think about which are cold and close to the poles, but not as expensive. Would be Svalbard & Greenland (second largest ice sheet in the world). These would also be good starting places when you are starting out in gaining experience in cold, remote environments.


Svalbard -

Listen to Ellen Piercy on the Tough Girl Podcast - who shares more about her 10 day Svalbard Expedition. Her tent mate was  Vedangi Kulkarni who has also shared her story on the Tough Girl Podcast Extra 

Additional Resources

A SHORT (LONG) TIMELINE OF WOMEN IN ANTARCTICA - By Carol Devine, ocean advocate, planetary health researcher and writer 

Women Breaking Boundaries in the Polar Regions: Explorers and Scientists - By Quark Expeditions for IWD2022 #BreakTheBias


Alone in Antarctica: The First Woman to Ski Solo Across The Southern Ice. By Felicity Aston

Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole (2011). By Felicity Aston

Cycling to the South Pole: A world first. By Maria Leijerstam 

My Polar Dream. By Jade Hameister


Ann Bancroft - 1st Woman 

1997 - First all-women relay expedition to the North Pole (from the UK) including Ann Daniels, Rosie Stancer

2007 - Rosie Stancer - MARS NORTH POLE SOLO - A record-breaking Expedition which had never before nor since been bettered. Rosie skied, climbed & swam across the frozen arctic ocean, alone for 84 days, setting another world record as the furthest solo expedition to the north by any woman.

2018 - Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition - led by Felicity Aston

2023 - THE B.I.G NORTH POLE SEA ICE RESEARCH EXPEDITION - A scientific exploration of Arctic Ocean 
sea ice – Before It’s Gone. Felicity Aston. Six British women, skiing to the North Pole gathering crucial sea ice data.

Preet Chandi

aka Polar Preet - 1st woman of colour to reach the South Pole after a SOLO, 700 mile journey taking 40 days.

Rosie Stancer

Accomplished Polar athlete and explorer since 1996 - described by one journalist as “a cross between Tinker Bell and the Terminator”

Liv Arnesen

First woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole (1994) – a 50-day expedition of 745 miles (1,200 km)

Mollie Hughes

29, Youngest woman to ski from Hercules Inlet in Western Antarctica to the South Pole.

Dr. Ghazala Ahmad-Mear

Surgeon for the NHS, Adventurer and only woman who walked with Robert Swan on the South Pole Energy Challenge in January 2018.

Masha Gordon

A mum-of-two, who has entered the world record books by becoming the fastest women to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam challenge!

Ann Daniels

A record breaking Polar Explorer

Ann Bancroft

First women to ski to both poles, and lead the first all women's expedition to the South Pole. Helping girls and women find their voice and potential in whatever they do.

Preet Chandi

Army Physiotherapist and Ultra Runner, training for her first solo unsupported expedition to the South Pole! 

Namira Salim

Space Diplomat, Future Astronaut, & Pioneering Polar Explorer!

Wendy Searle

Attempting to break the women's speed record for solo expedition to the South Pole, November 2019.

Felicity Aston MBE

Expedition Leader for The Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition 2018.

Felicity Aston MBE

Author, speaker, expedition leader and former Antarctic scientist. In 2012 she became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica.

Dr. Hajjah Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir

Malaysian Polar Explorer who ski-sailed across Antartica from the South Pole to Hercules inlet in 22 days.

Lucy Shepherd

Adventurer. Polar, Mountain and Jungle. Fellow of the RGS.

Saray Khumalo

Zambia-born South African explorer and mountaineer. In May 2019, she became the first Black African woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Georgina Miranda

CEO of She Ventures  |  Adventurer, entrepreneur and activist. Completed 6 of the 7 summits and going after the Explorers Grand-slam!

Maria Leijerstam

A Welsh British polar adventurer who was the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the continent in 2013

Tori James

First Welsh women to climb Mount Everest!

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