Ice Maidens depart for historic Antarctic expedition

The AECOM sponsored British Army ‘Ice Maiden’ Expedition team are on their way to the southern hemisphere, where next month they’ll attempt to be the first all-female team to cross Antarctica.

The 6 soldiers will use muscle power alone to ski the 1700km, whilst pulling a sledge weighing up to 80kg, battling 60mph winds and temperatures as low as -40°C.

The team left London Heathrow on the 25th October bound for Chile, where they’ll conduct their final preparations before heading to Antarctica next month.

Expedition leaders, Major Natalie Taylor and Major Nicola Wetherill, both Army doctors, wanted as many women as possible to get involved. Aiming to inspire women of all ages and abilities to get active, the only conditions for applicants were that they were serving in the Army, Regular or Reserve, and female.

Major Wetherill said: “The aim of Exercise Ice Maiden is to encourage other women to get active and find their own Antarctica – the challenge they can achieve.  However, the medical research is equally important to us.”

250 applicants were tested to the limit both in the UK and in freezing conditions in Norway with 6 making it through the final selection to take part in the biggest adventure of their lives.

In order to prepare themselves for this gruelling challenge, team members have over the last few months spent countless hours dragging tyres in order to simulate the 80kg pulks (sledges) they’ll take with them across the ice.

Lara Poloni, Chief Executive of Europe, Middle East, India & Africa, AECOM, said: “On behalf of everyone at AECOM I’d like to wish the team the best of luck on their historic expedition. Having met the team on several occasions I’ve been impressed by their passion and drive, they’re an inspiration to us all. My hope is that the expedition will inspire a new era of female expeditionary spirit, and encourage women and girls of all ages to take up exciting challenges.”

Major Sandy Hennis said: “Ice Maiden is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Although I don’t like to admit it I do enjoy challenging myself and this is without question the hardest thing I have ever attempted! I also want to encourage other women to challenge themselves in the outdoor arena. I hope that a group of normal women, who have no experience of polar travel, attempting to cross Antarctica will inspire others to give things a go that they might not have otherwise.”

The expedition is expected to take between 75- 90 days and team will be on the ice for both Christmas and New Year. The soldiers will also be marking Remembrance Day in Antarctica having taken a specially written Act of Remembrance with them.

B-roll and photographs (please credit ‘British Army’) of their training can be downloaded here.

Contained within the dropbox folder are:

  • Photos of the individual Ice Maidens
  • Photos of the launch event (Sept 15th) with their patron, the Countess of Wessex
  • Videos of their training in Norway and the Alps
  • Rushes from their VO2 Max Testing at Coventry University
  • Rushes from their time in the Human Metabolism Research Unit chambers (HMRU)
  • Assorted training photographs

For further information please contact:

James Banks, Head of Media Relations, AECOM on 07384 251036

To find out more visit

Twitter @exicemaiden and Facebook /exicemaiden.


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  • Team of six women from the Regular Army and Army Reserve (more details below)
    • Major Nics Wetherill, Royal Army Medical Corps
    • Major Natalie Taylor, Royal Army Medical Corps
    • Major Sandy Hennis, Royal Signals
    • Captain Zanna Baker, Royal Artillery
    • Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson, Royal Artillery
    • Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne, Honourable Artillery Company
  • Skiing 1,700km unsupported.
  • Expedition is expected to take between 75 and 90 days.
  • Pulks (sledges) will weigh up to 80kg each.
  • There will be two resupplies (one every 600km) where the team will collect food and drop off refuse. They will carry enough food for 30 days at a time.
  • The women are expected to consume between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day.
  • The team depart the UK for Punta Arenas, Chile in October 2017. Fly to the Leverett Glacier on Antarctica in November, ski 1,700km via the South Pole to Hercules Inlet, returning to the UK in February 2018.