First Indian woman to ski to the South Pole

Dehradun, October 26 : Reena Kaushal Dharamshaktu, a daughter-in-law of Uttarakhand, will be the first Indian woman to ski to the South Pole from the coast of Antarctica as part of the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition on the New Years’ Day, 2010, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth.

Reena, a freelance outdoor instructor, mainly teaches mountaineering and backpacking. She can relate to various parts of India as her father is a Punjabi, her mother is from Uttar Pradesh and her husband from Uttarakhand. She grew up in Darjeeling and is currently settled in Delhi.

She has done all her mountaineering courses from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. An extremely experienced mountaineer, having taken part in and led several Indian Mountaineering Federation expeditions in the Himalayas, she will be the lone woman from India in the Antarctic expedition.

“I hope to encourage more Indian women to take up careers in the outdoor industry, having struggled for the right to do so myself. I would also like to raise awareness of environmental pollution and how each person can make a difference,” she told TNS on telephone from New Delhi.

The Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition will have eight women from eight Commonwealth countries of Brunei Darussalam, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth, the expedition will see women brave blizzards, crevasses and temperatures below minus 40 degree Celsius as they ski a little over 900 km from the coast of Antarctica to reach the Geographic South Pole on New Year’s Day, 2010.

The team members from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, Jamaica, India, New Zealand and Singapore would be the first ones from their country to ski to the South Pole.

The women will be pulling sledges containing all the food, fuel and equipment they will need for the journey. Camping in tents on the ice, they will survive on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow.

Very few all-female teams have skied to the South Pole, and even fewer that are as international as the Commonwealth team, which represents five continents, six faiths and seven languages.

The expedition is the first Commonwealth-wide project to bring together women from all regions and hopes to draw attention to the achievements of women in the world. The team members are not elite athletes, but ordinary women, including wives and mothers, selected from over 800 applicants.

Many from the team had not experienced sub-zero temperatures or spent the night in a tent before joining the expedition.

Felicity Aston from England is the expedition member who had spent three continuous years in the Antarctic, living and working at Rothera Research Station for the British Antarctic Survey. Her job as a meteorologist involved monitoring ozone depletion and climate change.



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