Youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole Mollie Hughes returns home to Edinburgh

She is looking forward to 'eating everything'.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 5:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 11:04 am
Picture: Jon Savage

Mollie Hughes, the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole, has returned home to Edinburgh after her gruelling 702-mile expedition.

Speaking at Edinburgh Airport the 29-year-old said she ‘could not wait’ to get back to her flat and be able to sleep in her own bed, after 58 days on a roll-up mat.

Ms Hughes, who reached the Geographic South Pole on January 10, is also looking forward to seeing her friends in Edinburgh as soon as possible and ‘eating everything’.

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Picture: Jon Savage

Girlfriend Tegan Williams, 26, is delighted at Mollie’s return.

“The next couple of days we’re just going to eat - we’ve got champagne in the fridge at home, and we’ve got lots of Netflix to catch up on. I’m so proud of her, and it’s nice to have her home,” Ms Williams said.

“Knowing that she was on her own was really tough, and so was communication. We got to communicate through 140 character messages, and about a five minute phone call once a week," she added.

After weeks of free-dried porridge every morning, Ms Hughes vows she will ‘never eat porridge again’.

Mollie Hughes with girlfriend Tegan Williams. Picture: Jon Savage

She is also looking forward to trading freeze-dried shepherds pie and spaghetti bolognaise for fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a chocolate cake made by her girlfriend Tegan to welcome her home.

Alongside the ‘boring’ food, the biggest challenge for Ms Hughes was the loneliness of being on her own for two months.

“I think being solo was the hardest thing out there, just because there’s no one else to rely on, no one to work through problems with, and no one to give you a hug.”

Ms Hughes also suffered cold damage on her cheeks, as well as an abrasion injury known as ‘Polar Thigh’.

After setting off from Antarctica’s Hercules Inlet on November 13, she faced head winds of more than 55 knots, a white-out lasting eight days in a row, temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius, and ‘sastrugi’ - huge wave-like ridges of snow formed by the wind.

However this was nothing to her distress when, while listening to all seven of the Harry Potter books in audio format, she reached the part when Dumbledore dies.

“That was an emotional day,” she said.

Despite these challenges she skied for between ten and 12 hours almost every day, pulling her 105kg sled named Boudica.

Ms Hughes is now ‘mentally adjusting’ to life outside Antarctica, before beginning a programme of talks about her experience.

These will include an event at Edinburgh University on February 6, organised by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

“It’s a great opportunity to help inspire people, and I do that through my talks, and when I go into schools,” she said.

“It’s so nice when kids or young girls come up to me and say how inspired they are by what I’ve done. That makes it all worthwhile.”

While she didn’t spot any wildlife, Ms Hughes saw two other people during her expedition - Jenny Davis and Wendy Searle, both racing to beat the fastest time to the Pole.

“It was really cool to have so many women soloists down there this year - there were more women than men, and they did better,” she said.