Local legend to Tignes and Val D’Isere, Johanna Davidsson has broken a World Record and become the fastest ever solo female to reach the South Pole, unassisted, on skis. She arrived at the South Pole base camp from the Hercules Inlet after 38 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes. That time is 10 hours faster than the previous record holder Hannah McKeand who made the same gruelling 1000km journey in 2006.
She says: “When I got here two days ago I was immediately welcomed by Hannah McKeand…and that was funny, because I actually beat her record and she was the one that gave me a hug and congratulated me. She is the camp manager for this place. So she was actually happy that I did it, so no hard feelings i think…”
Swedish nurse Davidsson is no stranger to adventure. She paddled a kayak solo around the Finnish and Swedish coasts, covering a huge distance of 3660km in 92 days. She has sailed across the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Cape Town. In 2014, along with her sister, she crossed Greenland on skis with a Kite. Together they journeyed 2300km in 36 days, and became the first ever Swedes to cover that distance.
Training for this expedition began in February 2016 with some solo snow training in Finnmark, northern Norway. Then in April, Davidsson crossed the Norwegian islands of Svalbard. These training missions are vital for fitness, but also for the opportunity to get used to the landscape and the equipment needed for such a perilous journey. The equipment needs to be light, but having the right stuff is crucial for a successful expedition.
Davidsson set off from Hercules Inlet on November 16th after making the journey there from Punta Arenas in Chile.
She said at the time: “I feel so excited and happy to get started. It’s been a long waiting time…Now the plane leaves and I will be all alone. Wow. Exciting. Okay. Bye bye pilots and bye bye civilization, for a while.”
You can read Davidsson’s blog of her journey at solosister.se/en – she updated it throughout with regular audio recordings that give a little insight into what a solo expedition is like. On the 11th December she celebrated her birthday at S86 12,637 W81 42,432, alone in her red tent. You might think that this sort of expedition would be a lonely one, but Davidsson doesn’t think so.
She explains: “So, do I feel lonely now after one month with myself? Eh, no. I never think that so many people have known what I’m up to. People I know and people I don’t know are cheering me on and following this trip of mine. I think there are people that are much lonelier than me. I haven’t gone crazy. And I’m not sick of myself yet. Two months of a lifetime is not so long. The truth is that I like being by myself.”
On Christmas Eve she finally arrived at the Amundsen-Scott base camp, 38 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes after setting off. This certainly will be a Christmas to remember as she has gained the World Record for the fastest ever solo female to make the journey, and is the first Swedish woman to do so.
She says: “My record time is 38 days 23 hours and 5 minutes. That is how long it took me, starting from Hercules Inlet at the edge of Antarctica to the middle at the South Pole. The ski journey has been amazing, but the last week has also been hard. When I had 8 kilometers left to the goal and record I had no strength left at all in my body, but my head still had a tiny will to continue. And now I am soooooooo happy that i did! While here at the South Pole I have to rest and recharge.”
Having made it to the South Pole, all that remains now is for her to make the long journey back to where she started. This time she will be aided by her kite which she collected from the base camp. After a few days of rest and recuperation, she is ready to go again, and intends to begin the return leg this evening.
She says: “I’m sorting out my equipment for the kite ride back and if it’s good winds I’m planning to leave the Pole tonight. I will probably turn into a night rhythm, to have the sun in my back and out of my eyes. I’m excited for getting going again, even if the food and people are fantastic here. I’m actually looking forward to some time on my own again.”
Huge Congratulations to a massively inspirational woman, and wishing Johanna a safe journey home!