Army officer returns to UK after solo South Pole trek

  • By Samantha Noble
  • BBC News

Image source, Preet Chandi

Image caption,

Preet Chandi is the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years

An Army officer, who is thought to be the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition across Antarctica, has arrived back in the UK.

Preet Chandi, from Sinfin in Derby, trekked 700 miles from the Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 40 days and faced temperatures as low as -50C.

Arriving at Heathrow Airport, she said her next aim was to be the first woman to cross Antarctica coast-to-coast.

Image source, Ministry of Defence

Image caption,

Capt Chandi was greeted at the airport by family, friends and colleagues

The 32-year-old is also the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years.

She finished the trek, which had been expected to take between 45 and 48 days, on 3 January, but her flight home was delayed as one of the crew had to isolate due to a Covid outbreak.

On average, she travelled about 17 miles per day, pulling a 90kg sled in winds of up to 60mph. She suffered from exhaustion towards the end of the journey, as well as a persistent cough and sickness.

Image source, Preet Chandi

Image caption,

During the trek, she had to face high winds while pulling a heavy sled

During the trek she used specialist equipment to send audio and photos to family.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she added it felt "really, really good" to be back in the UK.

Capt Chandi, who goes by the name "Polar Preet", added: "I really hope people are inspired by the story and encouraged to push their boundaries.

"I started by just wanting to be a role model for my niece, who is now 10 years old, so to be able to be a role model to many more is really special."

Image source, Preet Chandi

Image caption,

Capt Chandi pulled a tyre across Derby for her training

The Army physiotherapist has previously described how her challenge, which she spent two years planning and training for, was "considered out of the norm for an Asian woman".

Her training included pulling a tyre along Derby's streets and a 27-day trip to Greenland to help become accustomed to the extreme weather conditions.

Capt Chandi joined the Army aged 19 and completed the Marathon des Sables - a 156-mile race across the Sahara Desert - in 2019.

Image source, Preet Chandi

Image caption,

Capt Chandi, who recently got engaged, said her South Pole trek was "phase one of two"

She said from Monday she "will be in the gym again" training for her next challenge, where she hopes to be the first woman ever to cross coast-to-coast via the South Pole unsupported.

"My aim is to do a full crossing, so solo unsupported again. It'll be a little bit longer and probably a little bit tougher.

"The more you do the more you realise you are capable of," she added.

Major Louise Bates, who greeted Capt Chandi at the airport, said: "From an ordinary background, she has done extraordinary things.

"She has steely grit and determination and has proven with resilience and the right support you can achieve anything you want.

"She does not want to just break the glass ceiling, she wants to smash it to smithereens."

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