Preston Army Captain "Polar Preet" makes history with her epic 700 mile solo trek to the South Pole

An army physio based in Fulwood has smashed all expectations by treking solo across Antarctica in 40 days.

By Catherine Musgrove
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Preet aims to inspire people to push boundaries. Credit: Preet Chandi
Preet aims to inspire people to push boundaries. Credit: Preet Chandi

Preet Chandi, known as "Polar Preet" has created history as the first woman of colour to complete the 700-mile journey, and is only the third woman to have ever done it.

The 32-year-old captain with 3 Medical Regiment skiied her way into the record books a week ahead of schedule, completeing the epidition to the South Pole in 40 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes – a daily average distance of around 17 miles.

>>>Click here to read Preet's blog from the South Pole.

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She has trained for more than two years for the mission, regularly hauling huge tyres behind her on runs and walks around Fulwood Barracks and trails around the Royal Preston Hospital site.

She narrowly missed out the time record set by Johanna Davidsson of Sweden who finished in 38 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes in 2016, but was the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years.

Enduring temperatures as low as -50C, wind speeds of up to 60mph, while pulling a 90kg sled – often over sastrugi (parallel wave-like ridges on the hard snow caused by winds), and battling through whiteouts, Preet suffered from exhaustion towards the end of the journey, as well as a persistent cough and sickness.

"I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.”

Preet on a training walk. Credit: Preet Chandi.

Speaking to The Post via satellite phone at the Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica where she is recovering, she said: "It feels so surreal to have finished it and to be speaking to people about it, having been on my own for so long.

“I’m feeling so many emotions right now. I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here. It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support."

Preet, who was raised in Derby, said part of the attraction to the challenge was how hostile the environment was, and that it wasn't part of "her world".

She said: "Part of the appeal was that I didn't know much about the Antarctic, it wasn't always my dream to get to the South Pole. I wanted to show that you don't have to be from a certain world to do this.

Preet pulling her equipment and food behind her. Credit: Preet Chandi.

"You can also find out so much on the internet now about people and places, and I wanted to show that you can use that to find people and do things."

She added: “This expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labeled a rebel.

“I have been told 'No' on many occasions and to ‘just do the normal thing’, but we create our own normal. You are capable of anything you want.

“No-matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.”

Preet in her tent during the expedition. Credit: Preet Chandi.

The expedition had been expected to take between 45 and 48 days, but Preet pushed herself to achieve a quicker time.

She camped in a tent, boiled a kettle and ate freeze dried food, including nuts, chocolate, cheese and salami.

She said long, difficult days were eased by listening to audio books and contact with home.

She said: "There were lonely times, but I got invested in audio books, wondering what's going to happen next to a characater. That definately helped.

"And on tough days I'd play messages left for me on my phone by loved ones, and I'd have messages from them inside my tent.

"I'd be in my tent at night thinking, "okay, that day is over, there's a new day about to start."

"A standout success"

Steve Jones, Expeditions Manager at Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions said: “In a season in which a number of other South Pole expeditions have failed to reach their goals, Preet’s solo achievement is a standout success.”

She is an inspiration to us all and a fabulous role model".

"Incredible distances"

Brigadier Faithfull-Davies CBE, Commander 102 Logistic Brigade, said: “I have been watching Polar Preet's Antarctic endeavours with admiration and awe as I have seen her maintain incredible distances and pace every single day of her expedition.

“Her engaging podcasts on her website have brought to life the arduous conditions and her extreme endurance, she is a truly remarkable woman.

“She set out with an aim to complete her trek in 45 days, though sensibly carrying extra rations for 48 days, a pace that defies my imagination given the terrain and weather.

“I am absolutely delighted to hear that she has achieved her ambition of reaching the South Pole and so proud that she has demonstrated how much we can all achieve if we set our minds to it.

“She is an inspiration to us all and she is a fabulous role model as the first woman of colour to complete this impressive feat. I would like to send her my heartfelt congratulations for this amazing achievement.”

Charity

Preet has raising money for two different causes during her expedition, one if for an adventure grant she is setting up for females conducting unusual challenges, the other is for Khalsa Aid.

To make a donation to the Adventure Grant, click here.

To support Khalsa Aid, an international NGO with the aim to provide humanitarian aid in disaster areas and civil conflict zones, click here.