Woman to begin Antarctic crossing, awaits weather

Posted Nov. 20, 2011, at 7:49 p.m.

CARACAS, Venezuela — A 33-year-old British adventurer preparing for a historic solo crossing of Antarctica was waiting at a base camp for the weather to improve on Sunday in order to begin her long journey on skis.

Felicity Aston said she has been doing more than physical training to ready herself for the expedition.

“I’ve also been speaking to a sports psychologist about the mental aspect of it because so much of this is about where your head’s at rather than your muscles and your physical fitness,” Aston told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the base camp at Union Glacier.

She aims to become the first person to cross Antarctica alone using only muscle power. If she manages to complete the journey in late January as planned, she would also set a record for the longest solo polar expedition by a woman, at about 70 days.

“Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been kind to us so far,” Aston said.

The ordeal she faces will be similar to that endured by Boerge Ousland of Norway, who made a 64-day trip across the continent in 1997. But he harnessed Antarctica’s fierce winds by strapping himself to a parachute-like sail when they blew in his favor. On those days he could ski as far as 140 miles while towing a sled carrying about 400 pounds of supplies. At other times, his speed dropped to about 2 mph as he struggled through crevasse-laced terrain, he said.

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