Edinburgh adventurer Mollie Hughes becomes youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole

Mollie Hughes has reached her destination.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:11 pm
Mollie Hughes before she set off. Picture: Hamish Frost

Edinburgh adventurer Mollie Hughes has broken the record for the youngest woman ever to complete the solo trek to the South Pole.

At 29 years old, Ms Hughes has beaten the current record held by 32-year-old Vilborg Gissuradottir, from Iceland.

"I'm absolutely thrilled, very tired, and in need of a shower," she told the Evening News via a Sat Phone from camp at the South Pole.

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Ms Hughes set off from Hercules Inlet in Antarctica on November 13, and has faced head winds of more than 55 knots, a white-out lasting eight days in a row, steep hills and temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius.

Despite this she skied for between ten and 12 hours a day, pulling her 105kg sled named Boudica.

Her original goal was to reach the geographic South Pole by New Year's Day, after 48 days, but due to harsh weather conditions she made slower progress than expected and the journey took 58 and a half days.

This meant she needed an extra food drop half way through. But she never seriously considered giving up, she said. "It's always at the back of your mind but you have to focus on one day at a time," she said.

"You just have to keep faith that the weather will get better.

Ms Hughes said she was feeling tired but "still pretty strong" after her ordeal.

The Edinburgh resident "cannot wait" to get home on January 22.

"Getting back to Edinburgh is going to be incredible," she said.

"It's my favourite city in the world. I'm going to just wander round and take it all in - I've missed the sounds, the smells, it's pretty bare here," she said. However Ms Hughes has also enjoyed the "mesmerising" beauty of Antarctica.

"You spend huge stretches of days in your own head," she said.

"I tried to let my mind wander - it was strange, memories have come back more vivid than I've remembered in years, random memories from childhood and other times.

"You get a huge amount of headspace you just don't get at home. I feel like when I'm back I won't take anything for granted."

Ms Hughes is also looking forward to seeing her girlfriend and family when she gets home, and eating the Christmas dinner she missed out on in Antarctica.

While she was "very jealous" of everyone at home, Christmas was one of her best days on the ice. "I had a lie-in, and I crossed the 400 nautical mile mark, which was a good milestone," she said.

She also opened some presents girlfriend Tegan had stashed in her sled - including a chocolate bar with a picture of Edinburgh on the front.

Ms Hughes has been in training for the trek since this time last year, and is no stranger to difficult conditions as in 2017 she became the youngest person to climb both the north and south sides of Mount Everest.

She will now recuperate at a camp at the South Pole before flying to Punta Arenas in Chile ahead of her return to Edinburgh.

Lothian MSP Miles Briggs submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament to congratulate Ms Hughes on her "exceptional" achievement.