THE ability to overcome icy temperatures so cold they can kill a human in a few minutes isn’t a skill that many need to have when becoming a doctor.
But for Portsmouth-based army GP Major Nics Wetherill it is a must-have.
The experienced soldier is part of an elite team of six women who will be braving the coldest place on Earth to help inspire a future generation of explorers.
Maj Wetherill is a member of the first all-female British Army Ice Maiden team, which aims to trek 1,700km (1,056 miles) across the Antarctic.
Setting off in November, the team will have to battle through temperatures of -50C with wind speeds of more than 60mph as they cross the South Pole – using muscle power alone.
It is hoped they will complete the epic feat of endurance in fractionally over two months, relying on just two resupply points along the route, which runs from the Leverett Glacier to the Hercules Inlet via the South Pole.
The mammoth task has only previously been completed by one other woman, the explorer Felicity Aston in 2012.
Maj Wetherill will be leading the expedition, along with Major Nats Taylor, and has been training for months to complete the testing trek.
She said: ‘I am honoured to be leading such an incredible expedition. Ice Maiden is not only an exceptional physical challenge, but potentially the biggest mental challenge of our lives.
‘It’s about women supporting each other to achieve shared goals, and inspiring others to take on their own challenges, however large or small these might be.
‘As an army doctor, I’m also incredibly excited to collect medical data on women undergoing endurance in extreme environments.
‘This is truly innovative and I am pleased to have created an opportunity for such research that will hopefully pave the way for more women to lead and participate in expeditions.’
The expedition aims to inspire women of all ages and abilities to get active and get outdoors.
The only conditions for applicants were that they were serving in the Army, Regular or Reserve, and female.
A total of 250 applicants were tested to the limit both in the UK and in freezing conditions in Norway and 10 women were then selected for further training, with six making it through to final selection to take part in the adventure.
In order to prepare themselves for the gruelling challenge, team members have spent countless hours dragging tyres in order to simulate the 80kg pulls (sledges) they’ll take with them across the ice.
Maj Wetherill said: ‘We wanted to inspire the female expeditionary spirit.
‘Each training exercise provided a unique opportunity for the women involved to gain new skills and be inspired to organise their own expeditions.
‘Although only six have been selected to go to Antarctica, we know that many more will have benefitted from the skills they have learned during the selection process.’
Maj Wetherill is part of the Royal Army Medical Corps and is based in Portsmouth.
As part of the team’s training, they members have all learned how to build snow igloos for shelter and have completed the British Army’s Winter Survival Course, including ice-breaking drills and tackling a five-day expedition in the Arctic Circle with the Norwegian Army.