The first British woman to walk solo and unaided to the South Pole was said to be elated today after finishing the trek in record time.
Fiona Thornewill, 37, had been battling fierce winds, clouds and bumpy ice on the last day of her Antarctic trek when “the clouds lifted, the sun came out” and she spotted the finish post.
The recruitment consultant arrived at the South Pole at about 5.30pm local time yesterday having walked 700 miles in 42 days, smashing the fastest time of 44 days for walking or skiing.
Her step-father-in-law, Roger Allton, said she had called home briefly when she reached the Pole, before taking a well-earned hot bath.
Mr Allton said: “As she got to the Pole she said out loud to Mike (her husband), but in her head, ‘Mike, I‘m here. I can‘t believe it.‘
“She’s elated, really emotional. She can‘t believe she’s done it, especially in the time.”
She told her family: “On my approach to the Pole I was in low cloud and the sastrugi ice was extremely heavy, making pulling the sledge very difficult.
“I kept telling myself surely this couldn’t go on for ever? Suddenly, with a mile to go to the American base at the Pole, the sun came out and I was able to touch the Pole at the end in glorious sunshine.”
Mr Allton added: “She is in effect now a superstar athlete. She’s beaten everyone, including the men.”
Mrs Thornewill, of Thurgarton, near Southwell, also beat her rival Rosie Stancer, 43, of Barnes, south-west London, who was said to be hot on her heels and just a few days behind.
Alex Foley, Ms Stancer‘s spokeswoman, said: “She’s nearly there. She’s got a couple of days to go.
“She’s doing phenomenally well, just a couple of days behind Fiona, but it‘s not a race and she’s ahead of her schedule.
“The weather has been on their side. It has been better than normal which has helped hugely.”
Ms Stancer, who is the 43-year-old great niece of the late Queen Mother, would be “delighted” at the achievement of Ms Thornewill.
“I think she’s really pretty close herself,” added Ms Foley, “and has been doing phenomenally well.”
The 5ft 10ins record-breaker was sponsored by the East Midlands Development Agency while her 5ft 3ins competitor’s Snickers South Pole Challenge was in aid of the Special Olympics.
Mrs Thornewill was now to set up camp outside the South Pole base to wait for her husband, Mike, who has just begun the 1,000km challenge.
The first woman to complete the solo, unaided trek, was Norwegian Liv Arnesen who finished in 50 days in 1994.
The previous team record was 44 days by Korean nationals.