June 21st: it may be the summer solstice, but things are going to get ice-cold at our london-based conference ‘Women in the Polar Regions’. You’ve probably heard all about ‘The Heritage of Women in Exploration’ by now (do check out our recent blog posts if you’ve missed out on our programme previews!), but today we’d like to officially introduce the content for the evening conference, which will centre around the achievements of women explorers in the world’s harshest places: the poles.
The evening conference will begin with a full-length talk by Felicity Aston MBE, a seasoned polar explorer, who, amongst her impressive solo achievements, has led expedition teams to both poles, and offers insight into the courage and resilience required to survive in such challenging conditions. When not exploring or leading expeditions, Felicity works closely with youth organisations (YET/BES) and charities, and is an elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). On the 21st June, Felicity will give an historical account of the presence and achievements of Women in the Polar Regions, from the some of the earliest expeditions to present day.
The EuroArabian Expedition
Following Felicity’s talk we will hold an audience interview session with selected members of her all-female Euro-Arabian Expedition 2018 team.This particular project brought together an international group of women from across europe and the middle east, and saw them ski together to the North Pole in April 2018. The Euro-Arabian expedition has shown how adventure and exploration can be used to inspire and empower women of all backgrounds. and build bridges between nations.
A finance professional and trained chaplin, Misba Khan has lived and worked in the UK for her whole life, but is of Pakistani origin. Having found that at times, women within her community can feel reluctant to push their boundaries and reaching potential, Misba embarked on the EuroArabian expedition with relatively little experience to her name; she was a regular walker with the Manchester ramblers, and had some climbing experience, but the polar regions were unbeknownst to her. As with the other participants in the EuroArabian expedition, Misba’s hope was that her example might demonstrate that anyone, of any background can push themselves and make great achievements.
The first Cypriot to reach the both North and South poles, Stephanie Solomonides has certainly developed a taste for adventure. Steph grew up in Cyprus, but now lives in the UK; effectively working for an investment bank by day, and as a polar explorer by night… Steph has worked closely with felicity over the past few years, having been on two expeditions with her (The EuroArabian Expedition 2018 and the Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition 2009), and acting as home support during her most recent trans-antarctic expedition. Steph now has a wealth of experience, advice, and stories from the Polar regions to pass on in the Q&A session.
Expedition Ice Maiden
The second part of our Q&A session promises many exciting tales of adventure…The team behind Expedition Ice Maiden followed in Felicity Aston’s footsteps and managed to conquer one of the toughest challenges on earth. Earlier this year, this group of six women became the first all-female expedition team to ski across Antarctica, coast-to-coast, with muscle power alone. All of the Ice Maidens are currently serving in the British Army or Army Reserve, and at ‘Women in the Polar Regions’ three of them will share their inspiring stories and answer our questions.
Based in Portsmouth as a GP, Major Nics Wetherill works within the Royal Army Medical Corps. As the leader of Army Medical Services biathlon team, Nics has been heavily involved in sport and adventure throughout her career, hence, when the opportunity arose to partake in the record-breaking Exercise Ice Maiden, the decision to say yes was a no-brainer. Nics is keen to share her expedition experiences with others, and is particularly focused on promoting the benefits of physical activity to women and girls, as well as inspiring people to push their boundaries to see how far they can go.
LSgt Sophie Montagne balances her weekday career in Marketing, with her weekend work with the Honourable Artillery Company Army Reserves. Sophie is an avid adventurer; she is fluent in spanish and has extensive experience of living abroad in Europe and Latin America. In addition to her busy lifestyle, Sophie participates in endurance races, and works as an army ski instructor; a love for winter sports having guided her towards Exercise Ice Maiden, her biggest challenge yet.
Based in Redditch as a Reservist Officer, Major Sandy Hennis is our final speaker of the event. Previously working as an army radio technician, Sandy has been posted to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan throughout her career. Nowadays, with her work for the reserves, Sandy’s responsibilities include the leadership of overseas expeditions with both civilians and army personnel; recent adventures have led her all over the UK, to Spain, the Alps, Nepal, and Peru, to name a few places. A lover of the outdoors, Sandy enjoys the challenge of expedition life, and no doubt, becoming an Ice Maiden will have been one of the biggest yet.
From left to right: Maj. Sandy Hennis, Maj, Nic Wetherill, and LSgt Sophie Montagne
Don’t miss out on hearing these inspirational women speak about their experiences of polar expedition on the 21st June 2018 at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Tickets available now.