Derby’s Preet Chandi MBE is a phenomenon. Her most recent expedition saw her become the fastest woman to ski to the South Pole, breaking yet another Guinness World Record. Derbyshire Life spoke with ‘Polar Preet’ – all the way from Antarctica!

To break two Guinness World Records for polar exploration is no mean achievement. To break three takes a special kind of person.

On December 28 2023, after 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes of skiing across 1,130km of Antarctic ice to reach the South Pole, British Army medic Harpreet ‘Preet’ Chandi, became the fastest woman to complete such a solo unsupported expedition.

Despite being faced with blistering sun, whiteouts and temperatures of minus 30C Preet, whose journey began at the Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf at the end of November, smashed the previous record set by Canadian Caroline Côté, by 1 day, 14 hours and 34 minutes.

However, this 35-year-old from Sinfin, Derby, is no stranger to challenging herself.

In fact, taking leave of her comfort zone is a way of life for Captain Chandi, who’s currently on a career break from military service providing rehabilitation for injured soldiers and officers.

‘You realise, as you get older, that people project their own fears onto you. They want you to stay inside this box that’s been created,’ says Preet, speaking to Derbyshire Life from Union Glacier, Antarctica, within days of her latest awe-inspiring feat.

‘I’m still learning what I’m capable of. For me, being an adventurer is going out there and doing something different, in a world that I once didn’t feel I had a place in. Now I’m exploring places I knew nothing about and it’s extraordinary, for me.

‘Yes, I’m an Asian woman but it’s so much broader than that. I get messages from people who’ve completely different backgrounds and genders. Often you don’t always realise who relates to you and what’s really important, is that I’m honest about my experiences; both the ups and also the lows because it’s okay to have lows.’

Keen to break down barriers through her social media channels, ‘Polar Preet’, as she’s known, makes no secret of when plans go awry, whilst motivating others, in particular young people, to smash their own glass ceilings. ‘I do want to be a good role model,’ she reveals.

Great British Life: Preet reached the South Pole in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes - the fasted ever recorded by a woman Preet reached the South Pole in 31 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes - the fasted ever recorded by a woman (Image: Preet Chandi)

Growing up in Sinfin, Preet attend Redwood School, followed by the local college. With two older brothers, she readily admits to being ‘quite competitive’, recalling enjoying running and taking part in cross-country races. Yet, it’s been the pursuit of a life without boundaries that has spurred her on.

‘One day in Derby city centre, I saw an advert for the Army Reservists and joined without telling any of my family because it was an unusual thing for someone from my community and background to do,’ she says.

‘Later, I remember applying for university and being told I may not get in, but I applied anyway. A lot of the time I was told I couldn’t do something but went ahead and did it.’

Having graduated with a degree in physiotherapy, Preet joined the Army full-time aged 27, undertaking large-scale exercises and deployments in Nepal, Kenya and South Sudan, whilst spending any downtime hiking and climbing across South America and the Nordics.

Grabbing another challenge, Derbyshire’s Peak District was the scene of her first competitive ultra-marathon - the Dusk ‘til Dawn event - and in 2019, she overcame the epic Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, one of the world’s toughest endurance events.

As it transpired, it was all just a warm-up for what followed on the Earth’s coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent.

‘Antarctica was mentioned in a passing comment and I remember my first reaction was “no way”. But the idea stuck in my head.

‘At the time I knew nothing about polar explorers like (Ernest) Shackleton, so I started by Googling: ‘How do you get to Antarctica?’ The appeal was not knowing anything about it or where to start.

Great British Life: Setting off on what would be a world-record-breaking feat Setting off on what would be a world-record-breaking feat (Image: Preet Chandi)

‘As I learnt more, I realised what an amazing place it is. Yes, it can be an extremely harsh environment but it can also be absolutely beautiful. There can’t be many places in the world where you feel like you’re completely alone for weeks on end, which is amazing.’

It was in 2021 that Preet made a name for herself by becoming the first solo woman of colour to complete an Antarctic journey unsupported to the South Pole.

Returning in 2022, she went on to break two World Records, including completing the furthest (1,485km), solo unsupported one-way Polar ski expedition by any person in history.

‘I learnt so much from the previous two trips and this latest one, although hard, went more smoothly,’ explains Preet.

‘Physically, when I got back from the second trip, I had quite a few injuries. I’d sustained a neck injury, and polar thigh - a severe wind-induced skin abrasion - on my calf that required surgery in February 2023. I started a rehab programme in the gym but it took so long to get my energy back. It was only by last summer that I finally felt like myself again.’

The scars are a permanent reminder of the physical demands placed on her body, including the punishing expedition preparation regime.

Indeed, few would be capable of hauling a tyre six-days-a-week to simulate a 75kg sled packed with such necessities as food and fuel, plus a stove, medical supplies, tent, and sleeping bag.

Equally important, Preet says, is the mental resilience needed to push through the darker moments.

‘With the physical training you can make a solid plan. The mental training I’ve found a lot harder,’ she accepts.

Great British Life: Antarctica is among the most inhospitable places on earth Antarctica is among the most inhospitable places on earth (Image: Getty Images)

‘During the earlier trips I’d sometimes feel anger or frustration, it was a bit like being in a mental prison at times. The build-up to these trips had involved really intense training and trying to raise sponsorship money.

Before this latest trip, I started speaking to someone and it’s helped me to focus on what I can control. Often we don’t deal with issues, and normally it’s easy to distract yourself by going on a run, or talking to a friend.

‘Coming to a place where you don’t have any distractions, I find really tough. I’m usually 99 per cent positive about a trip but it’s hard not to focus on the one per cent of doubt. Mentally, I felt much better this time.’

Great British Life: Preet arriving back in the UK, days after speaking to Derbyshire Life from the South Pole Preet arriving back in the UK, days after speaking to Derbyshire Life from the South Pole (Image: Sway Communications)

And she admits to having another weapon within her armoury.

‘I love listening to comedy. You can be on the ice, having a difficult, day and the next minute you’re laughing out loud,’ she smiles.

‘It’s so good for the soul. In fact, I’ve already got tickets to see stand-up Romesh Ranganathan when I get back.’

As she speaks, thousands of miles away from her Derby home in one of the world’s most inhospitable locations, Preet reflects on the fine balance of her latest, speed, attempt, which she describes as ‘definitely not a sprint.’

Skiing for too long or too fast and she’d burn out. Skiing too slowly might see the record missed. However, a medical background means she listens to her own body.

‘Once you’ve crossed the half-way point to the Pole you start to climb at altitude, so the second half is harder than the first,’ she explains.

‘I had four days of whiteout in a row, and going through soft snow was relentless. I was doing between 12 and 13 miles (20.9km) a day but having enough food and sleep is really important, as well as taking good care of my feet.

‘Discipline is essential. You can’t just keep pushing on regardless, this just doesn’t work. And, you can be the most disciplined and determined person, but you also need to have the background knowledge of how to fix your equipment if it fails.’

However, as she admits, such a solitary environment can also prove challenging when it comes to keeping track of time.

‘I actually thought I was a day behind (the record). You start at Day Zero so I was quicker than I thought I was!’

All of which made the euphoric moment when the finish line arrived, all the sweeter.

‘I was met at the South Pole by some of the Union Glacier Camp staff and they handed me a can of Coke Zero. After 31 days, that tasted great! When I came into Camp I had a hot meal in the cook house tent at 3.30am, along with another can of Coke.’

As well as World Records, her incredible achievements have brought other accolades too.

Two years ago Preet named as Woman of the Year at the Women in Defence Awards, as well as receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Derby in recognition of her outstanding achievements in endurance performance and her determination to inspire future generations.

Great British Life: Preet was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2022 Preet was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2022 (Image: Alamy)

A year later, in February 2023, HRH Princess Anne conferred an MBE at Windsor Castle.

Despite her Antarctic successes, there remains an undisguised humility.

‘I hate the word “conquer” as I don’t think we ever really conquer somewhere,’ she argues.

‘I covered a tiny part of this continent and you treat these places with the utmost respect. I’ve been lucky that it’s allowed me safe passage; it’s been a privilege to be here.’

So, what’s next for the unstoppable Polar Preet?

A priority on returning home is to visit Derby strength and conditioning coach Pete Swaile, who’s supported her for the past three years.

The aim? To regain the 10kg lost on this latest trip, and recover muscle mass. Whilst that’s not all that is on the horizon.

‘Although I’ve not yet planned the next one, I’m sure there will be more adventures,’ she concludes. ‘But first, in March, it’s my wedding. - so I should probably do some wedding planning!’

To find out more about Preet and her adventures, visit