The first women from India to ski to the South Pole, Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu, is a trained and experienced mountaineer. Comparing mountain climbing with her first expedition on skies she said, “In both kind of expeditions, success depends on team work, looking out for each other, taking care of oneself, looking after the equipment, communicating well and sharing a vision. Also, both need the person to be mentally and physically strong with tolerance for adversity and uncertainty.”
Short listed from about 800 women who had applied to join the Expedition, Reena was one of the two women from India invited to join a training/selection camp in Norway in February 2009. At the camp on the Hardangervidda plateau, after rigorous training the eight members for the expedition were finalised, Reena finding a place among them. A second training took place in New Zealand in September 2009. During this entire period Reena worked on individual fitness. Her training regime focused on improving stamina and endurance as well as strength through a combination of low-intensity endurance work and high-intensity resistance training.
The route selected for the expedition began at sea level, at the edge of the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf and then gained more than 9000 ft in altitude. It ended at the Geographic South Pole marked by the Amundsen-Scott base operated by the American science programme.
During the Expedition the team survived on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow. They slept in tents on the ice at night and pulled sledges containing all the food, fuel and equipment they needed. Travelling without a guide, the team relied on each other to navigate themselves safely to the bottom of the world. Reena currently freelances as an outdoor instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, USA and hopes her achievement will inspire other girls in India to participate in adventure activities.