Page 3 Profile: Maria Leijerstam, Adventurer


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The Independent Online

Glad to see someone managed a Christmas getaway

Well, she might have bypassed the worst of the British weather, but it wasn’t exactly a relaxing winter break for 35-year-old Leijerstam. Yesterday morning she become the first person ever to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the continent.

Wow, how did she manage that?

Leijerstam, from the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, set off from the Novo Russian air force base on 16 December and over the next 10 days the former management consultant rode across the Antarctic on a purpose-built recumbent bicycle. Beating her two male rivals – American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados – she pedalled for up to 18 hours a day, stopping to take the occasional power nap lasting just two to three hours.

Sounds rather arduous

Indeed. Leijerstam faced gruelling conditions on her 500-mile jaunt: after contending with compete whiteouts, snowdrifts and crevasses she sat down to a daily dinner of freeze-dried food, which she heated by melting snow on a small stove inside her tent.

I hope she packed plenty of thick woolly socks

Undoubtedly. However, that didn’t stop the sweat from freezing on the inside of her boots. Still, she was well-prepared. Her intensive training regime saw her endure a whole day cycling in an industrial freezer in Portsmouth at minus 20°C while surprised factory workers stacked shelves around her.

Nice to see a Brit triumph in that corner of the globe.

Yes. We don’t have the greatest track record, admittedly. In 1910 Captain Robert Falcon Scott set out on his ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole. Upon his arrival there in January 1912 he discovered that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had beaten him by 33 days. His entire party died during the return journey.