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Newcastle student skis into record books for pole trek

Bryony Balen has become the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole.

The Newcastle University student from Melbourne in Derbyshire, skied 705 miles, over 1100km, from the coast to the pole, pulling a sled and with a bag weighing 60kg on her back containing food, equipment and a tent.

The journey took her across the planet's coldest continent, where she faced temperatures reaching as low as -45°C (-49°F) and the daily struggle of high winds, white-outs, and an uphill trek.

Bryony reached the landmark at about 19:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Friday, Jan 20 and is now ready to begin her journey home by plane.

In the last two days of the expedition the team trekked 67km, a huge push to get there a bit earlier than planned. Bryony said she is planning to sleep after the long days (and nights) skiing.

She tweeted: "Made it to the South Pole! Now a record breaker!"

"I'm very tired and very happy... it took 56 days, a day less than expected."

The original idea for the trek stemmed from a pact she made with a climbing partner several years ago, but her resolve was strengthened after meeting the current youngest Briton to reach the South Pole, Andrew Cooney.

When he came to talk to her scout group about tackling the challenge at the age of 23, she asked him what barriers women faced when tackling a similar expedition. “He basically said it’s too hard for women so don’t try, and that was like a red rag to a bull,” said Bryony.

“I just started thinking ‘it’s there, why not go for it?’,” she said. “I made a pact a few years ago with a climbing partner that he would go to the North Pole and I would head to the South and then I would guide him to the South Pole afterwards.

“It’s that mad kind of idea you have while hiking at 4am to keep you going but in this case, the thought didn’t go away.”


published on: 18 January 2012