Female explorer announces solo Pole bid

FOUR women have tried and failed, but an explorer who enjoys manicures and sassy dresses yesterday announced her bid to be the first woman to trek solo to the North Pole.

Christina Franco, of Notting Hill, west London, will brave blizzards, polar bears and temperatures of minus 50C in her attempt to make history and reach the geographical Pole.

To launch her bid, she skied down Oxford Street yesterday in snowy central London provoking a flurry of mobile phone pictures taken by passers-by.

But the conditions in the capital were like a walk in the park compared with what she will face. The 42-year-old would-be record breaker has just 60 days to ski, trek and swim the 481-mile journey from Ward Hunt Island in northern Canada before the hours of daylight grow too short for her to continue.

Franco said: “Lately I’ve been having dreams of the ice cracking underneath me as I sleep and not knowing what to grab. Of course, the chances of that happening are very slight.”

The walking tour leader, photographer and conservationist has a good idea of what to expect as this will not be her first trip to the Arctic.

In 2005 she won the Polar Race to the Magnetic North Pole with British team-mate Justin Packshaw and in 2002 she completed the famously tough endurance race Marathon des Sables.

“As the only female member of the team, I had to prepare doubly. I came armed with a fresh manicure and pedicure,” she said.

The slim, beauty-conscious Italian-born adventurer was alarmed to find her favourite outfits growing too tight as she piles on pounds in preparation for the calorie-busting trek.

“I’m trying to gain 15 kilos before leaving,” she says.

The trip is in honour of her late father, a marathon runner who died of motor neurone disease two years ago. Franco funded the trip — which could cost up to £350,000 (€387,860) — by selling his house and hopes to raise £120,000 (€133,000) for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Save the Rhino and the Wilderness Leadership School.

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