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by Mick the Ram
A two-times Guinness World Record holder in the British Army has added a third record to her list of achievements, after becoming the fastest woman to ski across Antarctica.
Captain Harpreet Chandi, who is a medical officer from the celebrated city of Derby, is on a career break from the military where she serves as a physiotherapist providing rehabilitation for injured soldiers and officers.
She has previously smashed two other polar records, after which she earned herself the nickname Polar Preet and now she has overhauled the quickest time for a female to complete a solo, unsupported South Pole ski expedition.
Covering the 1,130km of Antarctic ice in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes, she skied between 12 and 13 hours a day on average, and pulled a 75kg sled containing everything she needed to survive behind her.
She beats the previous record set by Canadian Caroline Cote by a full day, 14 hours and 34 minutes, after leaving the Ronne ice shelf on 26 November, before arriving at the South Pole at 2.24 am UK time, on Thursday 28 December.
The Guinness World Records are still to verify the record, which can take several months.
Ms Chandi first made history by becoming the first woman of colour to complete a solo 700-mile Antarctic journey in 2021, before returning the following year to surpass the world record for the longest polar ski expedition by a woman and take the overall record at the same time.
In temperatures that dropped to as low as minus 30C, Polar Preet explained how she just focused on what she could control, and put out of her mind the things she could not; such as the blistering sun, the white-outs, alongside the freezing conditions.
She said she simply took everything “one step at a time” and had to weigh up the effort she was putting in, against possible burn out. “If I went too slow or finished too early I knew I’d miss out on the record” she was keen to point out.
Confidence gained from previous expeditions
She survived on freeze dried food in the evening and a mixture of fruits, nuts and chocolate while skiing during the day.
Speaking from the south pole after completing the gruelling challenge Capt Chandi, admitted that she was really tired, but said she was “So glad I made it”.
Continuing she compared this trek to her last expedition, telling how last time she pushed herself completely to the limit and that gave her the confidence to tackle this one head on.
Respect for the location
Commenting on her surroundings, Polar Preet called Antarctica “an amazing place” and said it was an “absolute privilege” to be there. “It is not a place any person can conquer, it is a place you treat with respect and hope it allows you safe passage, and I am so glad it allowed me safe passage” was how she summed up the experience.
She also had to contend with an annoying cough which became more severe as she went along, as well as looking after a scar from a skin graft she had earlier in the year, which needed added protection from the elements.
The adventurer spoke of the need for self-discipline to get through certain struggles and have the will-power to keep going. She admitted there were times that she wanted to stop due to fatigue, but she called on inner-strength and reminded herself on really low days that she had been through worse situations.
Another motivation was knowing she had the backing of the Princess of Wales who became patron of her Antarctic crossings and spent a day with her at a school in Derby last year, offering full support and giving her the drive to continue.
Playing it down
In a surprising admission, the army captain revealed that she didn’t really tell anyone exactly what she was doing this time, she had simply given the impression that she was going back to Antarctica to do a smaller trip, which essentially was true, but she just left out the sheer physical challenge that it entailed.
She said she was looking forward to tucking into a Nando’s when she gets back to the UK, and asked if that was it now with regards to her adventures, she paused before pointing out with a smile on her face: “We all know what happens when I say ‘never again’.”