Trailblazers: Felicity Aston

Felicity Aston did not start off her trip with a good feeling. She had just flown over the most worrying part of her planned route across the continent of Antarctica and got a good look at the deeply crevassed glaciers scarring the landscape that she planned to traverse over the next 50 days. As she watched the plane take off she had an overwhelming feeling of dread and the realities of her solo journey were beginning to set in.

Felicity Aston - First Woman To Ski Antarctic Solo Guinness World Records 2013 Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records
Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records

This was not her first cold weather expedition or her first trip to Antarctica. She first visited Antarctica when she was 23 and spent two and a half years at a British research station monitoring the climate and ozone. She’s led many expeditions in polar regions including a crossing of Greenland and an all-women’s ski to the south pole. But this was her first time alone in Antarctica. Rescue was all but impossible on the remote side on the continent. So she did what whatever she could to focus on the tasks at hand.

“I came to view Antarctica as a testing ground that would allow me to understand my potential and my vulnerabilities, an understanding that might, over time, enable me to become a better version of myself.” – Felicity Aston

 

The Commonwealth Woman's Antarctic Expedition (CWAE) selection and training camp in Norway, March '09.

Felicity endured katabatic winds, blizzards, whiteouts and hallucinations. But she found that the hardest part of the journey was just getting out of the tent in the morning. She knew that if she could do that then she could do anything. Instead of simply celebrating her accomplishment when she finally reached the end of her journey across Antarctica, she was already wondering is she was capable of more. She is motivated by her endless curiosity. I asked Felicity what she is working on now and if she has plans to return to the pole. She answered, “there is one more ski journey I would like to make in Antarctica and I very much hope that I haven’t made my last visit to that most wonderful of continents. However, at the moment I am working on a team of women from Arabia and Europe to ski together to the North Pole in 2017. It is part polar expedition, part cultural experiment.”

I also asked her what advice she would give to a woman who wants to go out solo but is fearful. She says, “I would say, start with a trip / journey / adventure that you feel comfortable with as a trial. Start small just to see how it goes – maybe an overnight by yourself somewhere close to home, or a short break somewhere that involves a bit of traveling around alone. If that goes well, push it a bit further – a week hiking a trail by yourself for example. You’ll soon know if it suits you or not.

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“It was clear to me that the success of my expedition had not depended on physical strength or dramatic acts of bravery but on the fact that at least some progress – however small – had been made every single day. It had not been about glorious heroism but the humblest of qualities, a quality that perhaps we all too often fail to appreciate for its worth – that of perseverance.” – Felicity Aston

More info about Felicity Aston:
Felicity Aston’s official website

Bonus Camp Read!

alone in ant

Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston
Aston’s memoir of her trip across the Antarctic is brutally honest and forthcoming about the hardships on an epic journey such as the one she accomplished. She does not shy away from the realities of being truly alone and shares the mental struggles she endured as well as the physical. I really felt like I was there with her on her journey with her vivid descriptions of the landscape and her experiences. This quickly became one of my favorite adventure memoirs and I can’t recommend it more.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
Read this on a snow day while snuggled up in all the blankets.

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