Race against time for British Army explorer ‘Polar’ Preet in bid to set world first

Photographer: Preet Chandi © Copyright Preet Chandi 2022

Intrepid British Army physio and Polar explorer Captain Preet Chandi is racing the clock in her bid to set a new world first.

‘Polar’ Preet has covered 440 miles in the first 37 days of her quest to be the first woman to cross Antarctica solo and unsupported.

Approaching halfway, she is battling to make up for lost time at the start of her epic journey, with adverse weather conditions slowing her expected progress.

The 1,100-mile plus expedition sees the 33-year-old pulling all her kit and supplies on a sledge (pulk), weighing around 120kg (19 stone), while battling temperatures as low as -50c and wind speeds of up to 60mph.

It was projected the journey would take up to 75 days and Preet will need to ensure she doesn’t run out of time to write her name in the history books again, with the technical aspect of descending a glacier beyond the South Pole a step into the unknown as it is a challenge she hasn’t faced before.

She said:

“Seventy-five days is the maximum time I have in which to complete the journey but it’s important to be smart. I can’t afford to rush it. Consistency is vital.”

“I need to hit the South Pole by a certain point to give me enough time to go down and navigate Reedy Glacier.

“Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions [which supervises all Antarctic expeditions] leaves at the end of January, and I would run out of food and fuel if I’m not finished by then. If I haven’t made it by then, I’d have to abandon the attempt.”

From the South Pole to the base of the glacier is around 354 nautical miles (655km). Of this, about 75 nautical miles (140km) is on the glacier, which climbs from around 763m to 2,931m.

Preet had to gain excess pounds prior to setting off in order to compensate for the weight loss she will experience in Antarctica.

She worked with a nutritionist and personal trainer to ensure she was ready to pull her heavy sledge for such a sustained period in difficult conditions.

Speaking from Antarctica, Preet said:

“I’m eating a lot, but I have definitely lost weight, which was expected. I am consuming 5,000 calories a day and it has all been broken down.

“I usually find breakfast difficult to eat but I have been eating all my food while I have been out here, including breakfast. I need the energy. I gradually put on weight before I started and got to 15kg over my baseline weight and am expecting to lose that much by the end.”

It is the second Christmas running Preet has spent Christmas on the ice near the South Pole. She said she’s been thinking of her loved ones, colleagues, and her mum’s tandoori chicken.

Last January, Preet created history by becoming the first woman of colour to reach the South Pole solo and unsupported. She did so in 40 days, just short of the female world record.

Preet, who is based with Regional Rehabilitation Unit, Halton, was recently honoured at this year’s Women in Defence Awards, winning both the Inspirational award and Woman of the Year.

HRH The Princess of Wales is patron of Preet’s expedition.


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