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Women complete 562-mile ski journey to South Pole

December 31, 2009 |  1:18 pm

Team members training prior to their expedition.

Seven women have completed a 562-mile cross-country skiing expedition to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Commonwealth, landing at the South Pole on Tuesday.

The Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition skied six to 10 hours a day, covering an average of 15 miles daily to reach the U.S.-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station science base in 38 days.

The assemblage consisted of women from Britain, Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand and Singapore.

According to the website, the group faced temperatures as extreme as minus-42 degrees, howling winds in excess of 80 mph and blizzard conditions. Each member had to tow a 176-pound sled holding her shelter and provisions. ...

Unfortunately, Ghana's Barbara Yanney contracted malaria shortly before the scheduled departure and, though she made a full recovery, was unable to join the team in Antarctica.

Jamaica's Kim-Marie Spence suffered frostbite on her fingers, forcing her to drop out on the third day of the journey.

The other team members are Era Al-Sufri, Brunei; Stephanie Solomonides, Cypress; Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu, India; Kylie Wakelin, New Zealand; Sophia Pang, Singapore; team leader Felicity Aston, Britain; and Helen Turton, also from Britain, who helped instruct the team during training and stepped in to participate after Yanney was unable to.

"We're all incredibly happy, and we're standing here, seven women at the bottom of the planet, with the biggest smiles on our faces right now," Aston said.

Now that they have completed the trek, the group's priorities are "to get a good sleep and to have something really good to eat," Aston said. "Plus our first showers since November."

The team will be airlifted from the South Pole to Patriot Hills base camp in east Antarctica, which was their starting point. They'll continue from there to London, via Chile.

"I'm incredibly proud of the team. If we can do this, then you can do anything that you like to. That's the message that we really want to send to everyone," added Aston.

-- Kelly Burgess

Note: An earlier version of this post said the expedition had arrived today.

Photo: Team members training prior to their expedition. Credit: Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition

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