Felicity Aston is boldly going where no woman has gone before.
On Friday, the 33-year-old British adventurer strapped on a pair of skiis and embarked on the trip of a lifetime. She’s attempting to complete a 1,700-kilometre solo ski trip across Antarctica.
Aston aims to become the first woman to make it across the frozen continent alone. She expects the journey will take about 70 days.
On Friday, she announced on Twitter that she had finally arrived at her starting point at the Ross Ice Shelf. “With the first step of my journey, I start the long road home,” she tweeted.
If Aston completes the journey, she will also be the first person to cross the Antarctic using muscle power alone.
Aston is no stranger to the Antarctic. After graduating university, she spent three years as a meteorologist with the British Antarctic Survey. In 2009, she led a group of a women on a ski trip across the frozen terrain. But, one thing is new – she’s never done it alone.
“In the past 10 years, I’ve been lucky enough to take part in lots of different types of activities, but I’ve never attempted a trip on my own before,” she tells The Weather Network. “So for me, that adds a whole new dimension for it, and a bit of an extra challenge. It’s sort of a mental challenge as well as a physical one.“
She’s been training mentally and physically for months. “There’s three different types of training. There’s getting your kit ready and everything and getting prepared, and then there’s the physical training, which is sort of low-intensity stuff. So I’ve been doing a lot of pulling tires and going for long walks and things like that to build up stamina and endurance,” she says.
“But then there’s the mental training as well. I’ve been working with a sports psychologist in the U.K. and he’s been giving me some tools and techniques – what they call mental hygiene – just to keep myself going.”
Even though Aston is familiar with the harsh Antarctic conditions, where temperatures can sometimes feel like -60° C with windchill, she says that it’s still something you never really get used to.
But, she says one thing she has learned is not to get too warm. “A lot of people, when they first come into the cold environment, they put on a lot of clothing, because that’s the natural thing to do,” she explains. “But then you get too hot and you start to sweat and then when you stop being active, that sweat freezes and you can get frostbite.”
“It sounds bizarre, but when I start skiing in the morning, I make sure I’m a little bit cold so that when I get active, I can warm up,” she says.
“So the trick to keeping warm is keeping cold.”
Weather plays a huge part in an expedition like this. Before arriving at the Ross Ice Shelf on Friday, Aston had to wait for a week at a base camp for the weather to improve before she could begin her trek. “Doing a trip like this you are so aware of the weather because your day to day life is affected by it completely,” she says.Aston hopes that Mother Nature will be kind to her over the next couple of months, and says ideal conditions would be sunny days with no wind. “Wind is the killer really,” she says. “That’s what makes it feel really cold, and it’s pretty miserable.”
She also hopes for bright skies, because cloud coverage makes it difficult to see where the sky stops and the ground begins – which makes navigating a nightmare.
But she knows that the weather won’t always be cooperative. “In Antarctica, the weather does rule supreme still, and there’s nothing you can do – you just have to wait.”
You can follow her journey at www.kasperskyonetransantarcticexpedition.com
With files from Cheryl Santa Maria and the Associated Press