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DERBY UNIVERSITY

What a privilege to receive my Honorary Masters from Derby Univeristy and to be able to address the Graduates of 2022. I loved being part of the ceremony.

I’m sure the Graduates were faced with some tough times to get to this point, it has been a difficult few years. Getting through those tough times is no easy feat. What an incredible achievement. Congratulations 👏🏽

Over 10 years ago, I completed my Access Course at Derby Univeristy. I did not come out of school with many GCSEs or have A-levels, I never felt very academic. I always remember being told that I wouldn’t be able to get onto my Degree course but I went on to become the first person in my family to get a Degree. Graduating from University as a physiotherapist in 2012 remains one of my greatest achievements.

It is hard to do something when you’ve been told you can’t, it is hard to believe in yourself. BUT we can do it. My future and your future is yet to be written and we can achieve anything we want with that future. We can achieve anything we want with the right mindset.

I didn’t get a chance to go to my Graduation ceremony in January for completing my Masters as I was still in Antarctica. Being able to go now in my home town was perfect.

With training and planning for phase 2 and my full time job, I don’t often stop and celebrate my achievements. These days are so special.

📸 with my big brothers

Solo and unsupported

Solo and Unsupported – what does this actually mean?

It is important to me to be open about my experience and be relatable. Yes it was tough to get to Antarctica but it is also achievable.

Solo – I am on my own. This was the case for phase one (700 miles to the South Pole) and will be the same for phase two (1000+ miles across Antarctcia).

Unsupported – this means that I do not pick up any resupplies on route. The biggest weight is the food and fuel so it means that my pulk (sled) is heavy to start with (approx 120kg for phase 2). The pulk does get lighter as I’m using the food and fuel but to be honest, it didn’t feel like it got any lighter last year!

I carry everything I need with me from the beginning and if anything breaks, I would try to repair it on route.

Unsupported doesn’t mean that I’m completely “off grid.” I have Comms with Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) daily. Each day I would speak to them on my satellite phone – this is a safety check in too.

I would also leave a voicemail daily – this was my blog. My partner (David) and sister in law (Sonia) would listen to the voicemail and Dave would type it out on my social media and website. I did not have access to the internet and couldn’t see any comments on these posts until I flew back to Chile. The blogs were so precious to me, it was my way of bringing you on the journey with me and I can’t tell you how much it meant seeing all the comments and support when I got back 💜

The maps on my website were created by ZeroSixZero, they were amazing and I still think it is so incredible that you can click on the map and hear me speaking from Antarctica!

I plan to use the same system that I did for phase 2 later this year.

I’m doing so many things now that I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of even 5 years ago.. don’t limit yourself. You never know what you could be capable of..

Phase 2 

My aim is to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of Antarctica. This involves me travelling over 1000 miles, pulling a pulk (sledge) with all of my kit, battling temperatures of up to -50c and wind speeds of up to 60mph. This journey will take approximately 75 days. This expedition will make me the first female to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of the continent. 

Three years ago, as I was learning about Antarctica, I decided I wanted to do a crossing of the continent. I did not put my application into Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) immediately because I knew I didn’t have enough experience. ALE are the company that allow expeditions like this to take place, they are the logistical and medical support while I’m on the ice and so much more! 

After a year of training and completing expeditions in Norway and Greenland, I put my application in to ALE. A few weeks later, I received an email and my application had been rejected, I still did not have enough experience. To be honest, I felt deflated. It is never nice to have any kind of rejection. What could I do to gain the experience that was required? I created phase 1 (a 700 mile solo expedition to the South Pole). Phase one was completed on 3 Jan 2022. 

I put in my application for the crossing once again to ALE for the crossing and it was approved a few weeks ago. When I look back, I’m glad it was rejected the first time around, the reality is that I did not have the required experience at the time. A No or rejection does not have to be the end of your story or a final answer, it can be an opportunity. I now have the additional training and experience to attempt the crossing I will be taking a few months of leave from the Army at the end of the year to conduct the expedition.

Why did I go to Antarctica in the first place and why am I going back?  I wanted to show that no matter where we are from, no matter what we look like, we can achieve anything we want. I want to inspire others to push their boundaries and encourage them to believe in themselves. I want to break that glass ceiling,

A huge thank you to the sponsors on board so far, your support means so much. I am still looking for sponsors that would like to be involved. Please email contact@polarpreet.com if you would like to come on board.

Training

I took a week off work to go and climb some mountains 🏔 So good to be back in Chamonix.

Made it up to Gran Paridiso Summit 4061m and Mont Blanc 4807m with a great team. I love being outside, it gives me a sense of freedom. I haven’t done much mountaineering before but learnt from our amazing guides during the week. We were roped up with crampons and an ice axe and helmet. 

We could pack relatively light on the summit days and leave kit in the hostels. I carried a sleeping bag liner and they had blankets at the hostel.

0400 start in the morning for Gran Paradiso, I quite like the early morning starts, not when I first have to wake up but when I’m outside in the dark with my head torch knowing a new adventure is about to begin.

We had a mixture of rain, sun and snow for Gran Paradiso and some strong winds for Mont Blanc but made it safely to the top.

Thank you to David Sanabria and Juan Pablo Bosch for a great week. I could definitely feel my quad muscles on the way down the mountain. 

Perfect training trip for my next expedition (to be announced very soon..) 

Financial stability 

I have been asked by quite a few people if I made money from this expedition. The short answer: no..

The slightly longer answer… I put everything I had into the cost of the training and expedition and I’m still paying off this debt since I have been back. I have absolutely no regrets at all, this expedition was so important to me and it is heartwarming to hear that people were inspired. I also think it’s important to be honest about my experiences.

I have been asked if I’m a millionaire a few times too. One website even suggests I’m worth 3 million 😂They should see my bank accounts! 

Financial stability has always been important to me, joining the Army Reserves when I was 19 helped me with that. I had student loans, bursaries and money I was earning from the Reserves to help me through University.

I was saving for a house for a few years and then decided to pick quite an expensive interest… I struggled to gain interest and sponsors on board for my Antarctic expedition for a while and decided to use my house and life savings to go on a training trip to Greenland, a trip I didn’t fully pay off until 5 Nov 21, I flew to Chile for Antarctica on 7 Nov 21. I did get corporate sponsors on board for the Antarctic expedition, I would not have been able to afford the expedition without them. 

I also bought a house last year taking full advantage of the Help To Buy scheme. I didn’t get funding for my MSc so also paid this off before I left. 

I’m still paying a huge cost of this expedition off and it has been difficult. I struggled when I came back with the amount of talks, driving and trying to sort my life/finances out.

Just before I left, my expedition became an Army expedition. This means I didn’t have to take any leave and my role when I came back has been with the Army engagement team. 

Since I have returned, my role in the Army has been doing school talks all over the UK. I’m still being paid in my Army role but the talks are not paid. I have reached over 15000 students over the last 3 months which is amazing.  I do love talking to people and it has been rewarding. It has also been exhausting. 3-5 talks a day in different regions of the UK. I think it’s ok to acknowledge although something is positive, it has also been difficult. 


If you’re drowning and don’t tell anybody how will they know? I come alive when I talk, I can smile and do interviews. It is the in between that has been the struggle. 

I’ve started to put boundaries in place which has helped me. I’m completing my last set of Army talks this week and will be back to my full time job. I’m working out a plan to help me with my finances and I definitely see the light.

It’s ok to talk about the struggles, it doesn’t make you weak, I think it makes you stronger. I’m acknowledging my struggles and making a plan to move forward.

Equality

I recently became the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition in Antarctica. It was incredible seeing all of the Media when I got back to the UK on 14 Jan. On most mainstream Media channels, I saw a lot of comments questioning why the colour of my skin was even mentioned. I saw comments such as “Why does it matter” and “We’re all equal”

To me, equality never meant we’re all the same or ignoring our differences. After all, nobody seemed to have an issue with me being described as British or an Army Officer. Are these not also differences? To me, equality is about embracing our differences. I’m proud of the colour of my skin, it is important to me, as is my culture and my heritage.

I haven’t always been proud and it’s so important to me that I’m finally here. I want others to be proud of their differences. We are all unique. I had the voices of authors from different backgrounds with me in Antarctica and I felt so proud having them with me. They got me through some tough days. I thought to myself I’m not alone.

Some of my audio books:
The Good Immigrant (UK and US version) Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Brown Baby – Nikesh Shukla
The Corner Shop – Babita Sharma
The Right Sort of Girl – Anita Rani
It’s Not About the Burqa – Mariam Khan
I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

It was absolute privilege having your voices with me.

I’m already making a list of audio books I want to take on my next adventure.

📷 26 Dec 21 on the ice

Keeping up

I have been talking at schools all over the UK over the last six weeks and have reached approximately over 5000 students and young people so far. Each week has been spent in a different region and consisted of day and evening talks. I have been travelling to schools in Northern Ireland, the South East, Bristol, Scotland and East Midlands.

One of the best comments I recieved was ‘I really enjoyed your talk because you can tell you want to be here.. and you’re not just here because your company made you come.’

I love doing the talks and reaching so many young people. I’m also tired, it has been pretty non stop since I have been back and I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up.

I’m not committing to many more talks this year and I feel a bit of relief in writing that. It’s ok to say no and that is what I’ve been doing a lot more. I know I have a lot of emails and messages that I haven’t read or responded to. I’m just trying to focus on one thing at a time and that is currently doing the school talks until May and then I’ll be back in my full time role as a physiotherapist 🙂

I want to clarify that I LOVE talking to young people. I want to inspire the next generation and I’m continuing with my current commitments.

“At the root of most fear is what other people will think of us”

We can care so much about what others think, that we often put that above what we want and need. When we do something different, something new, there are generally always objections. Loud objections. What is seen now as success, was looked down on. We often lack the ability or the willingness to see that their objections are just a hump that must be gotten over.

So many people are really proud of me now and that is honestly incredible. From my community, for the 2.5 years I was training, there were the naysayers, the people that showed no interest and those that didn’t really understand what I was doing. Those from the community who genuinely supported and encouraged me were few. The most important thing is that you believe in yourself. The one person’s belief in me that really mattered, was my own, and thankfully that remained regardless of the naysayers.

I really hope that when the next person says their ambition out loud (which could be anything they want), that the same community can encourage them to push their boundaries. Let’s continue to learn and encourage others not keep them inside any box or lane.

Let’s get over all of those humps together 🙌🏾

Inspired by a chapter from a book called Courage is Calling. Thanks Jag Chandi

Homecoming

What an incredible homecoming event. Thank you so much to Mitie for hosting the event. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing my face and videos of me on big screens!

I have been asked how it feels to be in the media and to be honest, it all still feels a bit surreal. But I’m also glad it has come at this time in my life. My confidence has grown through this journey and I feel more comfortable in who I am. I want to be as honest and real as possible about how I got to Antarctcia. I found it tough to get to that start line but it is achievable. It is so easy to look at the end result, I made it to the South Pole but the journey to get there is important to remember.

I had this idea over 2.5 years ago, I didn’t know anything about the polar world at the time. I wanted to do something that would push my boundaries and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I used all my leave for training trips, my life savings, with some training trips taking me over 6 months to pay back in installments. I would email 10-15 companies in the evenings after work trying to get sponsors. Most wouldn’t respond and when they did, they couldn’t commit due to COVID. I felt overwhelmed at times while trying to train, being a COVID vaccinator, completing my MSc, looking for sponsors and trying to buy my first house. I remember just sometimes sitting in my partner’s kitchen and I just wanted to cry because it was just too much.

But I persisted. My first big sponsor came on board 10 months before the expedition. I can’t even explain how much this meant to me. I had unpaid leave approved at the same time. I felt as though I was getting closer. About six months before the expedition, I had the opportunity to do it through the Army and I’m very grateful for that.

I used everything I had to get there, I was well into my credit card when I left for Antarctica and have just paid it off since being back 🙌🏾

It was hard work but when I had tough times during the expedition, I reminded myself of how much it took to get to the start line. This helped me. If I worked so hard to get here, I could get through the tough days and make it to the South Pole.

It’s incredible to have all the support and the following on social media too. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to respond to all of the messages and comments.. I will be as honest and real as I can about my experiences. I’m continuing to learn, grow and will continue to push my boundaries.

Home

It is so good to be home. I had such an amazing welcome at the airport. We had a slight delay so I was pretty much running out of the terminal to make it in time for the live interview. I think everybody had to wait for over an hour for me so thank you!

It is the simple things that you miss while on an expedition.. sitting on a toilet seat, sleeping in a bed, having a coke zero (it had to be added to the list…). I spent the weekend sleeping a lot, seeing family and eating. It’s nice to sleep when it’s dark (I had an incredible 24hrs of daylight in Antarctica).

I have honestly never had so many messages and emails and I’m just starting to make my way through them. It’s heartwarming to see all the comments on the posts when I was on the ice and I want to thank everyone for their support. I learnt a lot from the expedition and the 2 and a half years it took me to get to the start line. I’m still learning how capable I am and I hope I can help so many more people realise how capable they are too.