Polar Preet: British army physio becomes first woman of colour to walk solo to South Pole

She pulled 195lb sled 700 miles through temperatures that dropped to -45C and winds that reached 60mph

Colin Drury
Wednesday 05 January 2022 16:07
<p>Preet Chandi</p>

Preet Chandi

They call her Polar Preet – and it is a nickname well earned.

A British Army officer has just become the first woman of colour ever to complete a solo expedition across Antarctica.

Preet Chandi trekked 700 miles in 45 days to the South Pole, battling temperatures of -45C, winds of 60mph and the complete isolation that comes with such a challenge.

The 32-year-old from Derby – a keen ultra-marathon runner – skied and walked for 11 hours every day while pulling a 190lb sled containing her tent, equipment and a celebratory Coke Zero for when she reached her destination.

She said she set herself the immense challenge two years ago because she wanted to inspire others to push their own boundaries.

“I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here,” she wrote in a blog post from the South Pole after completing the feat on Monday. “It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.

“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 labelled a rebel.”

Some of her family had been so astonished when she told them was planning on walking to the South Pole, she revealed in a previous interview, that they thought she had said Southall.

“A lot of people tell me I don’t look like a polar explorer,” she told the BBC in November. “It’s considered out of the norm for an Asian woman to do this – it’s different.

“And that’s part of the reason why I wanted to do this – for people who don’t fit a certain image…I hope it makes other people from an Asian background get outdoors and try new things, which can be hard to do when it is so far out of your comfort zone.”

The army physiotherapist, a captain with the 3 Medical Regiment, prepared for the adventure in all manner of unusual ways.

That included pulling tyres along city streets and through parks as well as spending 27 days in Greenland to help her become accustomed to physical exertion in extreme weather – including whiteouts which, she said, were like “travelling through a marshmallow”.

The expedition itself begun on 24 November when she flew from Punta Arenas in Chile to Antarctica's Union Glacier on the southern edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf. From there, she waved goodbye and set off alone on the 702 mile journey.

Her family, including fiancé Dave, were able to keep tabs on her progress using live tracking data, while Chandi, whose parents are from India, also wrote a regular blog. Reasonably enough, it includes the word “tried” a lot.

Brigadier Lizzie Faithfull-Davies, commander of the 102nd 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.”

The trailblazer says she will now use half of the funds raised to pay towards an adventure grant for women conducting unique challenges, which she plans to launch next year.

The rest will go to Khalsa Aid, a charity with a message, she says, to “recognise the whole human race as one”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in