British woman heads for South Pole on solo journey

AP News
Posted: Dec 06, 2011 11:21 PM
British woman heads for South Pole on solo journey

A British adventurer says windy weather and crevasse-laden terrain have slowed her solo expedition across Antarctica, but she expects to reach the South Pole in two weeks before heading off for the other side of the frozen continent.

Felicity Aston is attempting to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone.

She told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday by satellite phone that she has skied so far about 140 miles (220 kilometers) and has less than 230 miles (370 kilometers) to go to reach the pole.

"All in all I'm about five days behind, but all these things are relative, so it's not disaster yet," she said. "The visibility's been pretty bad. There's been a lot of snow around. But today... it was a good day."

She said relentless winds have slowed her, and she also took a winding route to avoid crevasses.

The 33-year-old set out Nov. 25 on a journey of more than 1,000 miles (1,700 kilometers) that she expected to take about 70 days.

Aston had hoped to make it to the South Pole by Dec. 13, the centennial of Norwegian Roald Amundsen's achievement in leading the first team to reach the pole. More than 30 teams are currently heading for the South Pole, trying to make it in time for an anniversary celebration.

"I'm going to miss the party," Aston said. "It's still lovely in the 100th anniversary year to be out here."

Aston previously spent nearly three years as a meteorologist with the British Antarctic Survey, and in 2009 led an all-women group from the coast to the South Pole.

"I trained and prepared as well as I could for what I thought would be the mental pressures, but it certainly took me by surprise how affected I was by being on my own," she said.

"In the back of my mind always is the thought that I've still got a very long way to go," she said. "The key thing for me at the moment is not to get injured because then it's all over. Every day that I'm not injured is a good day."

If successful, Aston would become the first person using only muscle power to cross Antarctica alone. Boerge Ousland of Norway previously made a 64-day trip across the continent in 1997. But he harnessed the wind when it blew in his favor by strapping himself to a parachute-like sail.

Aston has been towing a sled with her supplies and putting up her tent each night, where she sends out updates on Twitter.

"I spent quite a scary night there having my tent being beaten around by the wind," she said.

She said she hopes to pick up speed now that she is getting away from the crevasses of the Transantarctic Mountains and emerging onto the continent's vast central plateau.

She said she made good progress on Tuesday skiing through drifting snow.

"It felt like I was walking along the top of clouds," she said.


AP Radio reporter Sandy Kozel in Washington contributed to this report.



Aston's expedition site:

Aston on Twitter: