“I did it again… just a little faster,” says British Indian army officer about her solo ski expedition to South Pole

Preet Chandi aka Polar Preet at South Pole
Preet Chandi has a drink at the South Pole. Screenshot courtesy: Instagram/polarpreet

Antarctica, the last continent on Earth, has few human footsteps; but of what there is, the ski tracks left by Preet Chandi are very special.

Nicknamed “Polar Preet”, the British Army officer of Indian origin recently finished yet another unsupported solo skiing expedition to Antarctica for the year 2023. She announced her success with an Instagram post at the end of December, headlining it: “Sooooo…I did it again… just a little faster.”

She said in her post: “I came back to Antarctica this year but without letting the world know in advance [and] completed another solo unsupported expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole but with a very specific goal.”

The part about “came back” refers to her Antarctica skiing expedition in January 2023. A BBC report on that journey said: “A British Army officer has broken a second world record in the course of an Antarctic trek. Preet Chandi, known as Polar Preet, has not only surpassed the world record for the longest solo and unsupported polar expedition by a woman, but also the overall record.”

“My expedition was a female speed record”

Chandi, who is from Derbyshire, England, had first trekked to the South Pole in 2021.

The January 2023 report said: “In her latest feat, Capt Chandi covered 922 miles (1,485km) in 70 days and 16 hours. Capt Chandi, 33, exceeded the previous world record of 907 miles (1,459.8km), set by Henry Worsley, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, in 2015.”

The report also said: “The previous longest unsupported solo female distance record was 858 miles (1,381km), completed by Anja Blacha in 2020.”

These numbers set up the context for what is meant by “faster”.

Preet Chandi works out hard to meet her next goal. Photo courtesy: Instagram/polarpreet

Outlining her December 2023 trip in the Instagram post, Chandi wrote: “My expedition was a female speed record. I completed the solo unsupported expedition in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes. I have applied for the GWR and awaiting confirmation. It does not belong to me alone. It belongs to everyone that helped me get here. It is ours. I’m sure I will not hold the record for long and will happily help the person who beats it.”

“I pushed as long and hard as I could”

GWR, or the Guinness World Records, already has Chandi’s name on two certificates — she received them for her January 2023 expedition. Describing that trip, she wrote a post headlined “Failure” on Instagram on April 21. That may sound baffling, since the expedition was evidently a record-breaking success. She elaborated on the reason.

Guinness World Records certificates for Preet Chandi after her January 2023 expedition. Photo courtesy: Instagram/polarpreet

Her post explained: “My aim was to complete a solo unsupported expedition of Antarctica and finish at Reedy Glacier. I fell about 100 miles short and failed to meet my initial aim. When I finished, I’ll admit I felt disappointed.

“But when I use the word failure now I don’t mean it to come with negative connotations. I failed to reach my initial aim. I had to change the goal and that’s exactly what I did. I kept going for as long as I could. I finished on the 23 Jan 2023, the last passenger flight out of Antarctica was on the 24 Jan. I pushed as long and hard as I could.”

“Please, dream big. If you don’t achieve that end goal, that’s okay”

Pushing oneself has to be a character trait of anyone who traverses a place as daunting as Antarctica. Chandi has that ability in spades.

BBC Woman’s Hour, which interviewed “Polar Preet” following her January 2023 feat, posted on social media: “Preet says it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done, but despite falling over more than 40 times in one day and suffering a cold burn to her calf, she kept going. She wants the expedition to encourage other people to push their boundaries and believe in themselves.

“Preet also told (interviewer) Anita about her mum meeting her at the airport with parathas when she arrived back to the UK, and how she’s still slowly trying to get a big knot out of her hair after not brushing it for 70 days.”

Preet Chandi with her mum, whom she recently persuaded to climb Snowdon mountain. Photo courtesy: Instagram/polarpreet

In that interview, Chandi reinforced the message of believing in oneself, just doing as much as possible and adapting to situations: “Please, dream big. If you don’t achieve that end goal, that’s okay.”

Urging her audience to explore what was outside the box labelled “normal”, Chandi said, “If a Punjabi woman from Derby can go and do this, you can go and achieve anything, because nothing is impossible.”

“We often face barriers and naysayers the more we achieve…”

The previous Antarctica expedition had left Chandi with quite an injury — termed “polar thigh”, even though it was on her calf — to recover from in 2023. The wound was caused not by her gear, but by the wind and cold in that extreme climate.

“It started quite early on in the 70 day exped; it looked like a bruise to start with and then a scab. When the scab broke open, the pain got worse. I rationed my pain relief for as long as I could and had one tablet left for the last 2 weeks (I took that in the last 48hrs),” she explained on Instagram.

Preet Chandi recovers from a very bad calf injury caused by cold and wind. Photo courtesy: Instagram/polarpreet

In view of this, the latest South Pole expedition had been uncertain. But “Polar Preet” was no quitter. “It took me a while to recover and I didn’t think I would come back out again this season. And then that little thought came into my head… what if…

“Could I attempt a speed record?? This trip was a bit different for me, I honestly didn’t know if I would be quick enough but thought I’ll do everything I can and let’s see!” she wrote on Instagram at the end of December 2023, giving fans a look into how she had prepped her mind for another shot at South Pole glory.

Gratitude was expressed, too: “This was a solo expedition but there are so many people that helped me get here. These trips are so much bigger than me. It was only a few years ago that I didn’t know anything about this world and now I’m still amazed at what I can achieve.

“We often face barriers and naysayers the more we achieve, something I continue to struggle with. But their words or actions have not stopped me yet and don’t let them stop you either.”