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Sandhurst Ice Maidens break Antarctic crossing record

The group have been praised as 'heroic' Photo: British Army
The group walked and skied more than 1000 miles Credit: British Army

A group of British soldiers has broken an Antarctica record by becoming the first all-female team to cross the continent using only muscle power.

The six-strong team endured temperatures as low as minus 40C as they travelled more than 1,000 miles across the icy landmass.

After 62 days of travel, including on Christmas Day, the British Army's Ice Maiden Expedition crossed the finish line at Hercules Inlet on Saturday.

The group started at the edge of Ross Ice Shelf on November 20 and travelled via the Transantarctic Mountains, Leverett Glacier, South Pole and the Thiel Mountains.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the group, labelling them a "heroic" and "trailblazing" team.

Conditions were treacherous Credit: British Army

The team, led by Major Nics Wetherill from Portsmouth and Major Natalie Taylor - both of the Royal Army Medical Corps - travelled up to 27 miles a day, navigating crevasse fields whilst pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg.

Major Sandy Hennis of the Royal Signals, Captain Zanna Baker and Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson, both of the Royal Artillery, and Honourable Artillery Company reservist Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne made up the four other members of the team.

After a re-supply at the South Pole they started heading towards Hercules Inlet.

They skied 373 miles across uneven ground, and spent Christmas Day on the ice before reaching their final re-supply point at the base of the Thiel Mountains.

Christmas Day at -40 Credit: British Army

Speaking after crossing the line, Major Wetherill said: "I'm just so incredibly proud of the team. I can't believe how far we've come.

"This journey has had good times, bad times and great times for all concerned, and each of them, I know, has made us better people.

"I now know my five companions so well as to be able to almost tell just from the back of their heads whether they are smiling or crying, although determining this when facing them can be just as difficult with their faces obscured by hoods, goggles and masks."

Major Taylor added: "I have spent the last few days trying to imprint this beautiful landscape in my mind. We have called it home for close to two months now and I will, in a strange way, miss it a lot.

"The snow sparkles like there is a layer of pearls on the surface and everywhere you look there is beauty and stillness. The photos just don't do it justice."

Temperatures were as low as -40C during the trek Credit: British Army

The Countess of Wessex, who met the team at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in September, sent a series of tweets congratulating the women:

The Countess of Wessex met the team at Sandhurst Credit: PA
Credit: British Army

They are an inspiration to us all and are role models to young people across the country.

"They truly demonstrate why the British Armed Forces are the best in the world, and show that with hard work, courage, and determination anything is possible.

"We are immensely proud of them and what they have achieved."

– Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson