Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

South Pole adventurer set for Christmas dinner surprise

Mollie Hughes Image copyright Mike Wilkinson
Image caption Mollie Hughes training for her South Pole expedition

Adventurer Mollie Hughes expects her Christmas dinner to be freeze-dried spaghetti bolognese but she is in for a surprise.

The 29-year-old, who is attempting to become the youngest woman to ski alone to the South Pole, is unaware of treats sneaked in her food cache.

Ms Hughes, who lives in Edinburgh, will be between 86 and 87 degrees south on Christmas Day.

And the mountaineer admits her highlight will be phoning home.

She said: "I am going to pick out my fave freeze-dried meal for the day, probably spaghetti bolognese, while I will be dreaming of turkey and roast potatoes.

"I have a few cards to open from my family and a small present from my girlfriend. I told her it has to be edible, so fingers crossed for chocolate."

But unknown to Ms Hughes, logistics company ALE hid secret gifts in her food stores meaning she can feast on pad thai, chocolate cake, fresh bread rolls, grapes, kiwi and nectarine.

Image copyright Mollie Hughes
Image caption Mollie previously became the youngest person to have successfully climbed both the north and south sides of Mount Everest

Her girlfriend Tegan has sent not only Ms Hughes' favourite sweets, Revels, but also chocolate covered pretzels and a bar of honeycomb chocolate - with a picture of Edinburgh on the front.

Describing her festive plans, the Devon-born mountaineer said: "I think I might give myself a small lie in on Christmas Day ... maybe start skiing a couple of hours later. Treat myself!

"I will spend it skiing and pulling my very heavy sled, which I have called Boudicca.

"I have a sat-phone so I will ring my family and my girlfriend on the day to wish them a Merry Christmas. I think that will be the highlight of my day."

Windchill

Depending on windchill, she could face temperatures of as low as minus 45C.

She added: "On Christmas Day I will have been out here for 43 days and not seen another human (or living organism) since the start, but surprisingly I am feeling okay.

"The end is in sight. Physically I am still feeling good, tired, but nothing is wrong with me. Mentally I am turning my attention to the last third of this trip and thoughts of home in a few weeks often enter my mind."

Ms Hughes, who became the youngest person to have successfully climbed both the north and south sides of Mount Everest in 2017, endured brutal conditions at the start of her latest challenge.

After leaving from Hercules Inlet in Western Antarctica for the 702-mile trek she entered complete whiteout conditions for eight days, which she described as "like being inside a ping pong ball".

Tattoo pledge

With no visibility, she had to navigate by compass through 30 knot winds, which dropped temperatures to minus 40C.

Severe windstorms gusting up to 50 knots with minus 45C windchill left her confined for her tent for stretches, causing further delays, and requiring a food drop to be organised to ensure she does not run out of supplies.

This support means she can no longer attempt to claim the title of being the youngest person to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole, but is still on track to claim the first half of the record and expects to reach her destination in early January.

In September Ms Hughes pledged to get a tattoo on her bottom in return for a £15,000 donation to fund her trip.

Vilborg Gissuradottir, from Iceland, is thought to hold the current women's record for skiing solo to the South Pole with support, arriving in January 2013 aged 32.

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