Shropshire Star

Army medical officer says she is fastest woman to solo ski across Antarctica

Captain Harpreet Chandi already broke two Guinness World Records for polar exploration last year but now claims she has a third.

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Harpreet Chandi, from Derby, posing beside the signpost at the end of her solo unsupported South Pole ski expedition

A British Army medical officer has said she has become the fastest woman to ski alone across Antarctica.

Captain Harpreet Chandi, 34, already broke two Guinness World Records for polar exploration last year but now claims she has a third.

The adventurer, who says she only tried downhill skiing once before and was “terrible”, covered the 1,130km of Antarctic ice in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes.

She beat the previous record holder, the Canadian Caroline Cote, by a day, 14 hours and 34 minutes.

Capt Chandi left the Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf on November 26 and arrived at the South Pole at 2.24am UK time on Thursday.

Harpreet Chandi
Harpreet Chandi covered the 1,130km of Antarctic ice in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes (Harpreet Chandi/PA)

The Guinness World Records still needs to verify the record, which can take several months.

Speaking from Antarctica, Capt Chandi told the PA news agency her previous trip was the “hardest thing I have ever done” and she did not initially believe she would return to the Antarctic this year.

She said: “I lost 20kg (on the previous trip), was carrying a few injuries and had surgery in February.

“Mentally as well… I came back thinking ‘definitely, no way’.

“It took me a while to recover, that’s when I realised how bad I was, and it wasn’t until the summer that I started to feel better.

“I started thinking ‘I wonder if I would be able to be quick enough to go for a ski?’

“Before this trip I had tried Nordic skiing. I had done downhill once, I was terrible.”

Harpreet Chandi
Capt Chandi is on a career break from military service (Harpreet Chandi/PA)

Before setting on the idea, she contacted an explorer in Norway, who spent a week teaching her skiing before she decided “I can do it.”

During her journey, she skied for between 12 and 13 hours a day on average and pulled a 75kg sled containing everything she needed to survive behind her.

She said she made sure she got seven or eight hours sleep a night, apart from the last night, to make sure she did not burn out and that her toughest day on this trip wasn’t “nearly as bad” as her hardest day on her last adventure.

She added: “It was definitely not a sprint, but I had to constantly weigh up my effort and how long I would ski for each day.

“Too long or too fast and I was going to burn out. Too slow or finish too early and I’d miss out on the record.

“Antarctica is an amazing place to be and it’s an absolute privilege to be here.

“It is not a place any person can conquer, it is a place you treat with respect and hope it allows you safe passage.

“I’m so glad it allowed me safe passage.

Snow and ice
Harpreet Chandi skied for between 12 and 13 hours a day on average (Harpreet Chandi/PA)

“I just focused on what I could control, I couldn’t control the conditions, the blistering sun, the whiteouts, the temperatures of minus 30C but I can control how I dealt with them.

“Just keep taking it one step at a time.”

Capt Chandi, from Derby, is on a career break from military service where she was a physiotherapist providing rehabilitation for injured soldiers and officers.

She first made history by becoming the first woman of colour to complete a 700-mile Antarctic journey, solo and unsupported, to the South Pole in 2021.

Returning the following year, she broke two world records including completing the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski expedition in history.

She was recently made an MBE and was named Woman of the Year at the Women in Defence Awards 2022.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Captain Harpreet Chandi, Royal Army Medical Corps, is made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She told PA how on reaching the South Pole, she said “it is good to be back at the pole again” before reaching for a diet Coke.

She said: “It is always the thing that I am craving.

“It is not alcohol, it was just ‘give me a can of Coke zero and I will be very happy’.

“It tasted so good.”

On returning to the UK, she says she is likely to go “straight to a Nando’s” before planning her next adventure.

She said it has been “hard” taking unpaid leave for her trips while continuing her army career but there is “definitely more to come”, even if she does not break another record.

She concluded: “We all know what happens when I say ‘never again’.”

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