After 59 days of hauling two sledges across 1084 miles in below-freezing temperatures, Felicity Aston, a 34-year-old British adventurer, became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica, the Associated Press reports. And while she was at it, Aston set another record: she completed her journey not only without human company, but also without kites, sails or dogs – little more than her own strength.
“When I saw the coastal mountains that marked my end point for the first time, I literally just stopped in my tracks and bawled my eyes out,” Aston told the AP.
“I’ve been promised red wine and a hot shower,” she Tweeted from her tent in Hercules Inlet, waiting to embark on a relatively short trip to her home in Kent, U.K. “A very long, very hot shower. It’s something I haven’t had in quite a long time now!”
Aston, a meteorologist, is no stranger to tricky crevasses and sub-zero temperatures. She spent the last three years as a researcher in Antarctica and has been a part of expeditions in Siberia, Greenland and the Arctic, according to the Guardian. It was traveling alone that raised the bar for her.
“Physically it has been tough, but the mental side has been really tough,” Aston said. “Being alone sounds like such a simple thing, but when was the last time you spent a whole day without seeing any person?”
Unlike her predecessors however, Aston was not entirely cut off from the outside world. She used a satellite phone to stay in touch with her family, Tweeted regularly and made podcasts chronicling her experiences, ABC News reports.
But there were moments, Aston said, when it struck her just how removed she was from the world — when she couldn’t use her stove because her butane lighters wouldn’t work, for instance, and when she was hit by ferocious winds in the narrowest part of the Leverett glacier where she knew no rescue plane could land.
“In the mornings I found it the most difficult and that was when my demons came out,” she told the Guardian. “I would think I can’t do this, I need to get myself out of here.”
Aston’s expedition comes exactly a century after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole and R.F. Scott’s ill-fated journey across Antarctica that killed him and his team.