Edinburgh adventurer Mollie Hughes halfway to South Pole as Christmas in Antarctica approaches

The explorer became the youngest person to scale both sides of Mount Everest in 2017.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 3:35 pm
Mollie Hughes before she set off on her expedition (Photo: Beeline PR)

Edinburgh-based adventurer Mollie Hughes is halfway to the South Pole as spending Christmas alone in a snowy wasteland looms.

Ms Hughes, 29, set off on her 702 mile expedition in Antarctica on 14 November, and hopes to reach the pole by New Year's day.

So far she has travelled more than 315 nautical miles, the equivalent of skiing to London from Edinburgh.

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Mollie Hughes before she set off on her expedition (Photo: Beeline PR)

In an update post on social media she said it was "scary" to think she had the same distance still to go as she prepares for increasing wind speeds and more time alone.

Halfway to the South Pole

Ms Hughes said: "I am halfway to the South Pole.

"Today I crossed my halfway point. I have so far skied for 300 nautical miles and I have 300 nautical miles to go. Five degrees covered, five to go.

The South Pole, close to where Mollie is now, taken by former explorer Luke Robertson on his expedition in 2016 (Photo: Luke Robertson)

"It is scary to think that I have to ski that same distance all over again. Over the next half of this expedition the temperature will drop and the air will thin as I gain altitude up to the Polar plateau, 2800m above sea level.

"The average wind speeds will increase as airmass flows down from the plateau and there will be increased sastrugi (snow wiped into huge wave shapes by the wind) to clamber over."

'Feeling a lot of trepidation'

She added that she was proud for how far she has come and is planning on taking each step as it comes.

Ms Hughes said: "It is kind of a bittersweet feeling to cross this point. I am so proud of myself for how far I have travelled and how I have coped with some very tough conditions.

"But I am also feeling a lot of trepidation for what lies ahead.

"I know that all I can do is break this huge figure of another 300nm down. Five more degrees to cross, I need to take it a day at a time and focus each 75-minute march.

She has been training since January, often to be seen hauling heavy rubber tyres along the beach near Dalmeny House in South Queensferry in preparation for pulling a sled with enough provisions to see her through the length of the trek.

To date only six women and 17 men have completed the journey to the South Pole solo and unsupported.

Mental challenge tough

Ms Hughes admitted she skirted around the mental challenge of the trip and said that the one thing she misses most is laughing.

She said: "I wanted to test myself, wholly, without teammates or guides to rely on or back me up.

"I think I realised on day two, in all that horrible weather that I could cope in this environment on my own – physically.

"But the mental side of this trip, I had skirted around in my preparations, assumed that I would be fine.

"I am fine, totally fine out here (don’t worry mum…) but I do really miss laughing. I usually try not to take life too seriously and think most things should be turned into a joke.

"But out here I feel very serious indeed. Let’s just hope I get my funny bone back when I re-enter society and that I won’t be stuck as a serious Sally for the rest of my life"

Ms Hughes raised more than £75,000 for the trip and even offered to "auction off a bum cheek" in exchange for the £15,000 shortfall in her funding before Dunfermline-based company ATAG stepped in.

Ms Hughes is also raising money for Cancer Research UK during the trek. You can donate to her fund here: https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/unite/molliesouthpoletrek%20