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From Coast to the Pole: One Woman’s Journey to the Bottom of the Earth

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

At the age of 41, most moms aren’t planning to ski to the South Pole. But, to be fair, most moms aren’t Wendy Searle. In November of 2019, Wendy is setting off from Hercules Inlet in Antarctica for a 1100km (700mi) solo, unsupported ski to the South Pole to test the limits of human endurance and to solidify a place for women in the history of polar exploration.

Coming up, we’ll learn more about this fascinating expedition and what inspired Wendy to take it on in the first place.

In the beginning

As a child, Wendy wasn’t particularly sporty or outdoorsy. While a student at an all-girls’ school, Wendy competed in sports such as gymnastics but was never really excited by her family’s hill walking and cycling holidays in the Lake District and other parts of her native England. But, over time, she came to love the outdoors and the adventures, choosing more and more to spend her free time in the natural world.

So, how did Wendy find herself on the brink of taking off for a solo ski to the South Pole? Well, despite having a full-time job and four kids, Wendy found herself captivated by polar exploration history, which inspired her dreams. Although she isn’t a professional athlete, Wendy set herself a goal of completing this challenge within five years, planning an entire training and fundraising regiment to get her to that point.

Training for the South Pole

Working backward with the goal of skiing solo to the South Pole in mind, Wendy recognised that there was a huge gap between her dream and her current experience level. So, she decided to head out on a handful of different polar-esque journeys in Norway and other similar locales to prepare. Along the way, Wendy and a team crossed Greenland in just 27 days, a worthy goal in its own right.

A ski trip to Antarctica is more than just a physical challenge, however - it is a major logistical hurdle with an immense amount of planning required to get the expedition off the ground. With logistics, planning, finances, and food all to be organised, Wendy couldn't do it all alone.

Thanks to the help of her sponsors, which include the innovative gear company, Animal Dynamics, as well as other large brand names, such as Arc’teryx, Wendy has most of the equipment sorted for her journey, but kit is the last of her worries. With her start date rapidly approaching, fundraising for the endeavour has been one of Wendy’s biggest challenges.

Every day, Wendy has to get up and try to fundraise the over £50,000 she needs just to get to Antarctica and back with all of her gear. But, Wendy realises that this is a mental challenge more than anything and that determination will go a long way towards helping her reach her goal.

In addition to the immense cost of such an expedition, Wendy is also trying to raise money for a number of charities, including ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and The Youth Adventure Trust – two causes that are near to her heart. Along the way, Wendy will also be working with metabolic specialists from Coventry University as part of a research experiment to study how the human body responds physiologically in extreme environments.

Skiing for a purpose

But what motivated Wendy to ski across Antarctica in the first place, you might ask? It turns out that Wendy was inspired by her work as the UK operations and media manager for the 2016/2017 SPEAR17 expedition, which was the first to complete a fully unsupported traverse of the Antarctic continent.

After falling in love with Antarctica during this project, Wendy realised that relatively few women had ever set out for such an arduous trek across the white continent with fewer still attempting to go at it alone. Her goal? To pioneer a new route across Antarctica, just as Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and others had done during the golden age of Antarctic exploration those many years ago.

Although most people would call a ski trip to the South Pole enough of an adventure, that wouldn’t be sufficient for Wendy Searle. Instead, Wendy wants not only to ski to the bottom of the world but to break the world record for the fastest coastline to South Pole journey, going at it solo, unsupported, and unassisted over a new route for 1100km (700mi).

Overcoming mental hurdles

While pulling a 75 kg (165 lb) sled over 1,100 km (700mi) in some of the most remote terrain in the entire world is a physical challenge, to say the least, much of the difficulty of a South Pole ski trip lies not in the physical exertion but in the mental aspect of being alone for so long. On this trip, Wendy is looking to spend at least 38 days alone on the ice without contact with other humans, a challenge that requires as much, if not more dedicated training than the physical elements of her expedition.

Training for a mental hurdle is tricky, but Wendy has found that through physical exertion, she has learned quite a bit about mental preparation, too. From pushing herself to get out and train in the dead of winter to gong off on a solo trip in Iceland, Wendy has learned to overcome the mental isolation and to use mindfulness exercises to keep her present and moving ever forwards.

Ultimately, a journey such as one to the South Pole is a mental hurdle as much as a physical one. But, through this expedition, Wendy hopes to show others that you don’t have to be a superhero or professional athlete to do the extraordinary. Instead, Wendy knows that, though each step she takes toward her goal may feel insurmountable at the moment, by endurance we conquer and achieve our dreams.

We can’t wait to speak with Wendy after she returns from her expedition in 2020 with endless tales and wisdom from the icy white continent. For now, though, you can learn more about Wendy and gain more amazing insight into her upcoming adventure by checking out her full interview with Tough Girl Podcast!


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