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Bad weather slows female explorer's solo South Pole trek

AP, file

British adventurer Felicity Aston skis across Iceland during a pre-expedition training trip in Sept. 2010.

 

 

High winds and poor visibility have slowed a British explorer's bid to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone, but improving conditions are boosting the 33-year-old's hopes of reaching her destination within two weeks.

"I was really pleased to wake up this morning and find that that the weather has drastically improved," Felicity Aston said in a podcast posted at on Tuesday night. "The winds have dropped a bit and I could actually see something so there was some visibility.  I could see the horizon and there was some surface contrast as well so I set off pretty quick. It's been a great day."


If successful, Aston would become the first person using only muscle power to cross Antarctica alone, according to The Associated Press. Boerge Ousland of Norway previously made a 64-day trip across the continent in 1997, but he harnessed the wind when it blew in his favor by strapping himself to a parachute-like sail.

Aston told the AP on Tuesday by satellite phone that she had skied about 140 miles so far.  In her podcast, she said she was within 200 nautical miles of the pole, which was "nice but we do need to be closer."

"All in all I'm about five days behind, but all these things are relative, so it's not disaster yet," she told the AP.

Aston had hoped to make it to the South Pole by Dec. 13, the centennial of Norwegian Roald Amundsen's achievement in leading the first team to reach the pole. More than 30 teams are currently heading for the South Pole, trying to make it in time for an anniversary celebration.

"I'm going to miss the party," Aston told the AP. "It's still lovely in the 100th anniversary year to be out here."

Aston sounded upbeat despite running behind schedule.

"I hope (favorable conditions) actually continue for a while longer because I did really well today, I did 14.6 nautical miles, which I think is my biggest day yet," she said. "I'd like a few more of those to get me closer to the pole."

According to Aston's website, the explorer first went to the Antarctica at age of 23 and spent three years living and working as a meteorologist with the British Antarctic Survey.

When she returned to Britain, she was part of the first all-female team to complete a 360-mile endurance race across the Canadian Arctic.  A year later, she led the first British women's crossing of the Greenland ice-sheet.

Since then she has led a number expeditions including the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition, the largest and most international women's expedition ever to ski to the South Pole.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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