The frozen tundra of the Arctic and the scorching desert of the Arabian Peninsula surprisingly have a lot in common, if you ask British explorer Felicity Aston.
Aston, a WINGS Fellow who is best known as the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone, conceived, designed and is leading The Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition, with the aim to foster cultural understanding among women from Europe and the Middle East.
The team of 10 women handpicked by Aston is training to ultimately ski to the last degree of the North Pole.
Aston told WINGS WorldQuest, "The goal is to complete a really great physical journey and to send out a positive message about what women are achieving and to inspire others to do whatever their heart tells them to do."
When Aston solicited online applications for the journey, nearly 1,000 women applied.
For their first training expedition last fall, the women, most of whom don’t have much experiencing mounting challenging expeditions, spent two weeks in Iceland learning practical skills.
For the second training in early March, the women wanted to go somewhere with an Arabic background.
“When we started, it seemed like a crazy idea – ‘Let’s start training for a polar expedition somewhere in the Middle East,’” Aston joked.
Eventually they decided to traverse the desert of Oman. Despite the difference in temperatures, the team still had to grapple with high altitudes, extreme weather conditions and shifting terrain.
In Oman the women were able to focus on getting to know each other better and building bonds of trust – which is also necessary for a weeks-long expedition, Aston pointed out.
“People are under the impression that this stuff just happens,” Aston said. “But you really have to work at it.”
For the team’s last training expedition, they’ll return to Iceland in September. Supporters have the opportunity to become “virtual team members” and get access to exclusive content the team records while on location.
The final expedition will take place in April 2018.
Photo: The team members of the Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition pose in the Oman desert with their countries' flags. Team Leader and WINGS Fellow Felicity Aston holds the WINGS Flag.