Army officer completes remarkable solo South Pole trek

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By Sandish Shoker BBC News Online

An Army officer is thought to have become the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition across Antarctica.

Preet Chandi trekked 700 miles in 40 days, facing temperatures of -50C, poor visibility and fatigue along the way.

The 32-year-old, from Derby, said she set the challenge because she wanted to inspire others to “push boundaries”.

Announcing her achievement on social media she wrote: “It feels so surreal to finally be here”.

Capt Chandi, an Army physiotherapist, who goes under the name “Polar Preet” spent two years planning and training for the expedition.

Some of her training included pulling a tyre along Derby streets and a 27-day trip to Greenland to help become accustomed to the extreme weather conditions.

Capt Chandi travelled a daily average of 17 miles and used specialist communications equipment to send audio and photos to family during her mission.

During the trek, she had to tackle 60mph winds while pulling a 90kg sled and suffered from exhaustion towards the end of the journey, as well as a persistent cough and sickness.

On finishing she sent back a message saying: “I made it to the South Pole where it’s snowing.

“Feeling so many emotions right now. 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 wanted to encourage people to push boundaries and believe in themselves.”

Capt Chandi has previously spoken about how her challenge was “considered out of the norm for an Asian woman”.

“That’s part of the reason why I wanted to do this – for people who don’t fit a certain image,” she said.

The expedition had been expected to take between 45 and 48 days.

Brig Lizzie Faithfull-Davies, commander of the 102nd Logistic Brigade, said: “I have been watching Polar Preet’s Antarctic endeavours with admiration and awe as I have seen her maintain incredible distances and pace every single day of her expedition.

“Her engaging podcasts on her website have brought to life the arduous conditions and her extreme endurance. She is a truly remarkable woman.

“I am absolutely delighted to hear she has achieved her ambition of reaching the South Pole and so proud she has demonstrated how much we can all achieve if we set our minds to it.”

Ms Chandi is now the third fastest woman to trek across the continent, and the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years.

She narrowly missed out on the time set by Johanna Davidsson from Sweden, the fastest female to complete a solo expedition of the continent, who finished in 38 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes in 2016, the British Army said.

Joining other well wishers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “What an extraordinary achievement. Congratulations Captain Preet Chandi.”

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