Edinburgh woman who became youngest female to ski solo to the South Pole shares her story


The youngest female in the world to ski solo to the South Pole returned to her hometown of Edinburgh this week, and has told EN4 News about the decision to attempt the gruelling expedition on her own.

At 29 years old, Mollie Hughes became the youngest ever female to successfully travel from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole with no support or resupply.

Mollie Hughes on her journey across Antarctica to the South Pole (credit: Mollie Hughes)

The original plan was to reach the South Pole by New Year’s Day but the trip was almost derailed due to severe weather. She faced headwinds of more than 55knots, temperatures of -45C and an eight-day whiteout, but still managed to push forward and claim her second world record.

Mollie posted the news on Twitter after having reached the Geographic South Pole on Friday the 10 January, saying: “After 58.5 days of skiing I am standing at the Geographic South Pole as the youngest woman EVER to ski solo from the coast of Antarctica to the Pole.”

Having began the journey on Wednesday 13 November, she travelled 702miles in 58.5 days. Dragging all of her food with her on a sled weighing 105kg, she skied alone for between 10 to 12 hours a day, 650 hours in total.

EN4 News spoke with Mollie about her trip and she told us that she never considered taking support, it was always planned to be a solo trip.

“On Everest and when you’re climbing you really need to have a team around you for safety and for motivation. I’d always had amazing teams, amazing guides on Everest and in the Himalayas but I thought in Antarctica, I really wanted to test myself and to see if I could cope on my own.”

To sustain her energy levels, Mollie consumed around 4,500cal per day, more than twice the daily amount for a woman. Despite this, she lost around 15kg during her expedition.

As well as the obvious physical demands, we asked what her biggest challenges were during her expedition.

“Psychologically, being solo was hard. You’ve got to be so confident in each decision you make. There’s no one to cheer you up, no one to tell you tomorrow is going to be a bit better, no one to give you a hug. Learning to cope with all that was hard, but I got there.”

After recuperating at a camp in the South Pole, she spent a few days resting in southern Chile before receiving a hero’s welcome from her friends, family and sponsors back in her hometown.

Taking the world record from previous holder, Vilborg Gissuradottir from Iceland, who completed the challenge in 2013 when she was 32, Mollie now has two world records to her name.

In 2017 she achieved her first record as the world’s youngest person to have successfully climbed both the North and South sides of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, at just 26 years old.

“It was probably a good year and a half before I started thinking, ‘what’s next?’” Mollie told us. She said it took her a long time to decide to take on a challenge of this scale after her second victory on Everest.

“I knew a lot of people who had been to Antarctica and the continent just really intrigued me. Travelling from the coast all the way to the pole is probably one of the best ways to see the whole of the continent.”

When she isn’t undertaking record breaking expeditions, the Edinburgh-based mountaineer puts her energy into motivational speaking and of course, climbing.

Mollie fell in love with the mountains at the age of 17 after she joined a school expedition to climb Mount Kenya. For the rest of her time in education, Mollie would save up as much money as she could in the year and then spend it all on an expedition over the summer.

“[The school expedition] opened my eyes to seeing the world. The first few years were more about travelling and climbing at first and as the big trips kind of came into it, it was more about pushing myself a little bit and working out ways to inspire other people as well.”

Mollie has been delivering motivational speeches to schools and corporate events since her first Everest expedition in 2012 and is planning to deliver an array of speaking engagements about her most recent feat now she has returned.

Her first talk will be given exclusively to Cancer Research UK, the charity that she raises funds for, in Glasgow on 30 January.

Credit: Mollie Hughes

Mollie Hughes in the South Pole after completing her expedition (credit: Mollie Hughes)

It’s only been a matter of days since her feet landed on home ground, but Mollie is already planning things she wants to do in the future.

“I plan to do a lot more motivational speaking and share this story with people all around the world, especially young people and young girls. I want to set up a business that takes young girls on adventures, write books, so many things.”

It’s no wonder she has yet to plan another adventure of this scale, but Mollie plans to inspire many as she conquers the world, one record at a time.

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