Powered by grit and determination, Felicity Aston became the first person to ski solo across Antarctica on Monday.
Aston finished the 59 day trip almost exactly a century after a Roald Amundsen first reached the South Pole in 1911. The 33-year-old Aston crossed 1,084 miles as she traveled from the Ross Ice shelf to Hercules Inlet, where a plane is expected to pick her up today.
Aston, a freelance travel writer, meteorlogoist and explorer, faced temperatures that averaged -25 degrees as she pulled two sleds across the ice and thick snow on her nearly two month trip. The scariest moment came when her two butane lighters failed to work while she was in the Transantarctic Mountains, she told the Associated Press. The lighters resume working at lower altitudes.
While early Antarctic explorers were cut off from the outside world, Aston’s access to a satellite phone meant that friends and family could follow her online as she regularly tweeted and made almost daily podcasts about her journey. An interactive map showed Aston’s progress in real time. And while she skiied, Aston listened to bands such as Bon Iver, Juinp and Other Lives.
She laughed at some of the comforts she had to give up. On New Year’s Eve she noted that there would be no champagne.
“No booze with me to toast the new year but treating myself to spoonfulls of the peanut butter I was given at Pole,” Aston tweeted as the new year approached
In Aston’s last podcast, recorded after she reached Hercules Inlet, the clearly emotional traveler reflected on finishing the trip. “I seem to have got here in a rush or something and I don’t really feel prepared for it,” said Aston. “It feels amazing to be finished and yes overwhelmingly sad that it’s over at the same time.”
However before Aston could disparage too much, she was reminded of what she would get to leave behind.
“Just in case I was in danger of feeling sentimental, a violent wind has appeared from nowhere and is beating the tent like the bad old days,” tweeted Aston Sunday night.
Weather permitting, Aston will return home today where she says she is looking forward to some “red wine and a hot shower.”
In her latest tweet Aston admits she is sad to leave the icy continent. ” The plane is on its way so these are my last moments alone in Antarctica. I feel both excited and extremely sad,” said Aston.