AN epic expedition lies ahead for Bretby woman Harriet Walsh, who will cover 450 kilometres across the South Pole – on skis.
The 35-year-old has been doing the kind of training you’d expect from an elite athlete, despite never having picked up a pair of skis until a few weeks ago, and working full-time.
The charity challenge will see her flying out at the start of December. There will then be a period of acclimatisation before the trek begins from the Leverett Glacier on December 18, with the aim of finishing on New Year’s Eve.
Harriet told the Mail: “The original plan was to race to the South Pole next year as part of a team, but not enough people signed up. The organisers still wanted me to have the chance to go.”
Harriet will fly into Novo in Antarctica, where she will be 70 kilometres from civilisation. After acclimatising she will then be flown to the South Pole, where she will pull on her skis for a challenge expected to take up to 13 days.
She will be on her own, apart from a support truck.
In preparation for what lies ahead, Harriet went for a practice run in Iceland to prove she was fit enough to take on the expedition. The trip was also the first time she had used cross-country skis – she had previously been practicing on roller skis at Branston Water Park.
She told the Mail: “It was like someone had drawn in the horizon. I can understand why explorers thought it felt like the end of the earth.
“It makes you a bit dizzy because you can just see white and can’t pinpoint anything. You feel like the only person in the world.”
One morning she woke up with ice around her face. The extreme cold means it takes 10 days to acclimatise and get used to tent drills and the altitude.
Training for the challenge has involved runs at 4.30am and daily rigorous gym sessions, such as pulling tyres for six hours.
“I know I’ve got the stamina and fitness’, said Harriet. “I just have to cope with the cold.”
It is not the first time Harriet has taken on an extreme challenge, who, lists half marathons among her list of achievements.
She said: “A few years ago I was looking for a massive challenge. It’s like when you go on a run and think ‘could I have gone further?’”
Harriet, who will be burning 7,000 calories a day, added: “This is way out there and harder than anything I’ve done.
“On Christmas Day I will unzip the tent and look out into the wilderness.”
The trip will be self-funded, though she has three sponsors, the main one being Cola Rebell UK. The others are Total Body at Branston Golf Club and Tools Global.
YMCA in Burton will be given 50 per cent of the cash she raises, 25 per cent will go to Anthony Nolan and the rest to Mountain Rescue Staffordshire and Derbyshire. So far she has raised £1,600.
Though nervous, Harriet believes it will be an unforgettable experience.
“It’s potentially quite dangerous, but you spend so much time speaking with experts and everything they do is about making things safe, as long as you’re sensible and make sure you listen to your body.”
Visit virginmoneygiving.com/polarduckywalsh to donate.