The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Outdoors

January 23, 2012

British skier sets record for solo Antarctic trek

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — British adventurer Felicity Aston completed her crossing of Antarctica today, becoming the first woman to ski across the icy continent alone.

She did it in 59 days, pulling two sledges for 1,084 miles from her starting point on the Leverett Glacier on Nov. 25.

“!!!Congratulations to the 1st female to traverse Antarctica SOLO.V proud,” her Twitter message said.

She announced her achievement from Hercules Inlet on Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, where she waited alone in her tent for bad weather to clear so that a small plane could pick her up and take her to a base camp. Other expeditions also have gathered there, preparing for the summer’s last flight off the continent.

Aston also set another record: 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 is the first to do this alone.

A veteran of expeditions in sub-zero environments, Aston, 34, worked as a meteorologist in Antarctica and has led teams on ski trips in the Antarctic, the Arctic and Greenland.

Her journey took her from the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Leverett Glacier and across the Transantarctic Mountains to the continent’s vast central plateau, where she fought headwinds most of the way to the South Pole. Then she turned toward Hercules Inlet and a base camp where the Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions company provides logistical support to each summer’s Antarctic expeditions.

See her route here

She arranged in advance for two supply drops so that she could travel with a lighter load, one at the pole and one partway toward her final destination. Otherwise, her feat was unassisted.

Aston tweeted that she’s been promised red wine and a hot shower after she gets picked up. “No plane tonight but I have my last Beef and Ale Stew to enjoy for my final evening alone – yum!” she wrote.

And while she pondered her achievement in her last hours of solitude today, she shared more of her thoughts in a phone call she broadcast live online.

“It’s all a little bit overwhelming. After days and days to get here, I seem to have arrived all in a rush. I don’t really feel prepared for it. It feels amazing to be finished and yet overwhelmingly sad that it’s over at the same time,” she said. “I can’t quite believe that i’m here and that I’ve crossed Antarctica, just over 1700 kilometers, just under 1,000 nautical miles, 14.5 degrees and 59 days and here I am.”

“I’m just going to sit here and enjoy these last precious moments on my own, and running through my mind all those days behind me, the plane leaving me on my own ... the awful day when I thought I was going to get blown away, all those days of bad weather, slogging through those mountains, up those hills with my sledges, arriving at the pole, leaving the pole again, more bad weather and just empty horizons...”

“I remember all the bad times, sitting in my tent, thinking ‘what on Earth am I doing?’, but despite all that, this has been the most amazing privilege, to have the opportunity to do this, and just a huge thank you to all those people who made it possible.”

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