South Pole Expedition
After 58 days and 650 hours of skiing alone in whiteouts, storm-force winds and temperatures hitting minus 45C, Mollie Hughes reached the Geographic South Pole on the 10th January 2020– achieving her second world record by becoming the youngest woman in the world to ski solo from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.
The 29-year-old adventurer and motivational speaker, who was born in Devon and lives in Edinburgh, started her world record attempt at 1.40pm (Chilean time / 4.40pm UK time) on Wednesday 13 November. Departing from Hercules Inlet in Western Antarctica, she skied eastwards for 702 miles and arrived at the South Pole at 8.50am (Chilean time / 11.50am UK time) on Friday 10 January.
Having initially hoped to reach the South Pole by New Year’s Day, her quest was almost derailed by severe weather in the first two weeks, with Mollie facing headwinds of more than 55knots, temperatures of minus 45C and a whiteout for eight days in a row.
But despite this initial setback, and the physical and mental challenge of skiing alone over steep hills and deep snow, Mollie battled on. During the expedition, she pulled a sled weighing 105kg, the equivalent of the average international rugby player, and skied alone for between 10 and 12 hours a day.
To sustain her energy levels, Mollie consumed around 4,500kcal per day, more than twice the average daily amount for a woman, with favourites including Snickers bars and freeze-dried spaghetti bolognese, which she consumed on Christmas Day. Despite this, she lost around 10kg during her expedition.
Commenting from the South Pole, Mollie said: “It’s a surreal feeling, I can’t quite believe I’ve done it. I knew it would be hard but this has been an exceptionally tough experience, especially in the first two weeks when I was struggling through the whiteout for over a week and incredibly strong winds. That really tested my resilience, especially as I was all alone, but I managed to get through it and carry on.
“I feel really fortunate not to have experienced any major disasters knowing what can happen in these challenging conditions. I am also so thankful that my GORE-TEX kit did such an outstanding job protecting me. All of my kit remains intact which is quite unusual after almost 60 days.
“Christmas Day away from my girlfriend and family was hard too, as was my Spotify needing rebooted after 30 days which obviously wasn’t possible! Now I’m looking forward to my first shower and proper food in almost two months, before I head home to see everyone and share my story.”
Mollie funded her expedition by raising £75,000 from sponsors and crowdfunding, including Kae Tinto, an ambassador for Cancer Research UK. She has also received support from the global brand Gore, makers of GORE-TEX technology who provided her with specialist kit, and Dunfermline-based boiler and heating business ATAG.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “A huge congratulations to Mollie for this phenomenal achievement. It’s difficult to imagine the challenges she’s faced, but she’s done it. We’ve been in awe of the determination and resilience she’s shown.
“I’d also like to thank Mollie for using the trek as an opportunity to raise vital funds to beat cancer, a disease that affects so many. We receive no government funding, and it’s thanks to people like Mollie that we’re able to continue to fund world leading research. We hope others will feel inspired by Mollie’s effort and support our lifesaving work.”
Chris Blackwood, spokesperson from GORE-TEX, said: “Congratulations to Mollie for undertaking such an ambitious expedition. We have been following her journey very closely and we are proud Mollie was one of the first people to test the new GORE-TEX PRO technology. We’re delighted that the technology in her gear played a part in ensuring she was protected from the unpredictable and harsh conditions, and that Gore could play a part in supporting her incredible efforts to reach the South Pole.”
Trevor Jones, Managing Director ATAG Heating Technology UK Ltd, said: “We’re so proud to have supported Mollie. We’ve been hugely impressed by Mollie’s focus, ambition and sheer determination to succeed. Mollie’s feat shows us that with determination, self-organisation and a great support network anything in life is possible – we never doubted for a moment that she would make it and we can’t wait to see what she sets her mind to next!”