Women head for the pole - with 7,000 Penguins

At First sight a 50-year-old woman, a mother of triplets, and the great niece of the Queen's mother would appear to be unlikely radicals but at the end of this month they will challenge the traditionally macho pursuit of Arctic exploration and become part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole.

During their months of training the women adventurers, who will tackle the route in five teams of four, have had to put on a stone of muscle to enable them to pull sledges weighing 120 pounds. To help them in this task McVities who produce Penguin biscuits have agreed to sponsor the expedition and will be providing them with more than 7,000 Penguins for their 1,000 kilometre trek.

Thanks to the daily hauling they can each expect to lose up to a stone in weight by the end. The expedition leader, Caroline Hamilton, a 33- year-old film financier from London, is aiming to fulfil her "ultimate dream" of standing at the Pole.

With her on the last leg will be sports therapist Zoe Hudson, 30, from London; film financier Pom Oliver, 40, from High Wycombe, and 27-year- old journalist Lucy Roberts from London. The 20, chosen from an original group of 60 hopefuls after two gruelling SAS-style "mud, sweat and tears" selection sessions on Dartmoor, have been toughening up in the wilds of Snowdonia and Scotland.

The biggest and strongest women were chosen for the demanding earlier legs of the two month expedition, which starts on 13 March, said Ms Hamilton.

"It will be very tough early on, with pressure ridges to contend with," she said. Conditions should become warmer and easier as the expedition progresses.

Also on the expedition will be the Queen Mother's 36-year-old great niece Rosie Clayton, a London-based PR executive.

The trek also includes mother of baby triplets Ann Daniels, 31, from Yeovil, Dorset, and Sue Riches, 50, from Wolverhampton, and her daughter Victoria, 25. Two other women, one American and one Japanese, have reached the Pole, but they were part of larger men's expeditions.