IT WAS an epic adventure that tested her physical and mental fitness to the limit.
However after 46 days spent in the toughest terrain on the planet Paula Reid is glad to be back at home in Gosport.
The inspirational lady has become the fourth British woman to complete the gruelling trek to the South Pole and returned to her home in St Marks Road, Alverstoke, earlier this week.
Her 560-mile journey saw her exposed to incomprehensible temperatures, deal with isolation and remoteness at the same time as pushing through unimaginable pain due to horrifying thigh injuries.
But all that did not stop her completing what she set out to achieve – and then almost collapsing with pain when she reached the South Pole last Saturday.
The 47-year-old said: ‘I did it that’s the most important thing. I actually did it.’
Paula was in a team of five that set off on November 23 – although only four made it to the finish with one man being overwhelmed by the physical exertion and quitting halfway.
Despite being tempted to quit due to the punishing nature of the expedition, Paula, who runs her own leadership development company, pushed on.
She said: ‘I took two sayings from my company with me. One was “pain is temporary, pride is forever” and the other was “chose your attitude” and that’s so important to me.
‘I had those printed on my skis to keep me going.’
Paula developed a painful – and extremely rare – condition called polar thigh, a debilitating injury that starts like chilblains and leads to the skin becoming ulcerated and cracking, with parts of the flesh dying.
Her pain was so intense that when she reached the South Pole, she could just about stand and take it in.
‘I don’t think I could’ve done another day,’ she said.
‘I just hung in there – one step at a time.’
Paula is undergoing treatment for this condition back home and may need to have surgery. She is yet to regain the feeling in her fingertips.
The journey, which saw them carry 80kg while skiing nine hours a day, followed the Messner route.
Due to the harsh conditions, they could not talk among themselves while skiing and in the evening they were so exhausted it was difficult to strike up friendships.
Although they did celebrate Christmas by taking two hours off to sing carols, share food and call home via satellite.
Paula said: ‘In a way you don’t want to connect with home as it makes you soft.
‘I just did a very quick call on Christmas day which made everyone teary.’
Paula undertook the mission to raise money and awareness for Gutsy Gastros, a charity that helps children with chronic bowel, intestinal and gastric disorders.
She has raised nearly £3,500 – an amount she hopes will rise when people hear about her experience.
She said: ‘The South Pole is an amazing place. The experience was surreal.
‘Churchill once said “when you are going through hell keep going”. The exit is always ahead.
‘I just had to physically step inch by inch.
‘Some days I felt like sitting down and saying “I’m not doing anymore” but I kept on going.’
To make a donation go to paulareid.com.
Paula is now looking forward to some rest – and taking a holiday in sunnier temperatures.