Meet the Antarctic Ice Maiden

Sophie Montagne is a member of the Antarctica Ice Maiden squad, aiming to be the first all-female team to ski across Antarctica in November 2017.

Words by Sophie Montagne

In the last five years women’s sport has risen from a token footnote to headline news across the national press, thanks in part to a tidal wave of enthusiasm for sport and fitness after Team GB’s success at London 2012 and Rio 2016. We've seen a monumental rise of fun and physical events such as Tough Mudder, a surge of interest in triathlon at every level and the tribe that has become Park Run – making fitness cheap (often free), accessible and inclusive for anyone in possession of a pair of trainers.

Now women are taking things a step further and taking on extreme endurance challenges that have previously been the domain of men. Whether it’s becoming the first team of women to row 8,446 miles across the Pacific Ocean like the Coxless Crew or aiming to become the first all-female team to ski across the Antarctic land mass, like Antarctica Ice Maiden.

Sophie and the Antarctica Ice Maiden squad

I am part of the seven-woman Antarctica Ice Maiden squad and in November five of us hope to ski 1,700km coast-to-coast across Antarctica, via the South Pole. The journey will take 75 days and we expect to face temperatures of -40°C, combined with winds of up to 60mph that will further add to the chill. We will drag a pulk (sledge) containing all the kit we need to survive on the ice including a tent, stove, warm clothing, food and fuel, which will weigh in excess of 80kg. That’s the equivalent of dragging a well-built 6ft man behind us for nearly 3 months!

And why do we want to do this? Why put yourself through all of that discomfort (we won’t be able to wash but can use half a wet wipe per day and will wear the same pair of knickers for a month at a time. Yuk!). The answer is we want to see how far we can push ourselves both physically and mentally, although ultimately the mental game will be the hardest.

Ice Maiden Squad

We want to see how, as a team, we can work together and support each other to achieve something that only 20 people in the world have ever done. We want to collect medical data that will be used to research how women’s bodies compare to men’s while undertaking extreme endurance in polar environments. And most of all, we want to inspire other women to get active, get outdoors and find their own adventure, no matter how big or small.

I’ve been training for a year now and have changed a casual interest in trail running, netball and skiing into a 6-day per week training regime involving strength and conditioning weights sessions at Grace Belgravia, dragging a tyre across Central London and fell running in the UK’s national parks. I have another 10 months of training ahead of me, including a 3 week expedition in the Norwegian Arctic Circle in the New Year and crevasse rescue training in the Alps in the summer.

Follow my progress:
Twitter: @icemaidensophie

Instagram @icemaidensophie