News | 22 November 2023
Researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University are working with two Welsh female firefighters as they embark on a skiing expedition to the South Pole to gather important data on women’s physical health in extreme endurance environments.
Georgina Gilbert, 49 from Ross-on-Wye and Rebecca Rowe, 42 from Pyle, Bridgend, will ski 702 miles (1130 kilometres) from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.
George and Bex, will ski ten hours every day for 45 days, only stopping for daily necessities such as to eat and sleep. While skiing they will be pulling supply sleds weighing over 85kg, in temperatures as low as -50c, in possible wind speeds of over 60 miles per hour.
The research is being led by Dr Fiona Carroll and Dr Issam Damaj from Cardiff School of Technologies along with a team of experts from Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences at Cardiff Met. Dr Fiona Carroll said: “We only have very limited existing knowledge of how the female body responds and performs in extreme endurance environments. It’s hoped that this incredible expedition will fill the gap and provide key data to help us understand more about how far the female body can be pushed and how it responds in extreme conditions.”
Dr Carroll and Bex both swim with the Bridgend Swim Club. Chatting one morning at the Club, Dr Carroll was fascinated to learn of Bex and George’s plans to trek to the South Pole, and even more amazed to learn that there is very little research on women’s performance in such extreme conditions. It was this exchange that sowed the seeds for this research project.
Throughout the expedition, Bex and George will wear a number of digital monitors, including menstrual trackers, fitness monitors and adventure smartwatches. The data gathered will provide insights into the physical responses and performance of mature female endurance athletes navigating challenging endurance environments. The ultimate goal is to disseminate the findings in the hope this will lead to further exploration in this underrepresented area, as well as support individuals like George and Bex, and inspire countless other girls and women who will follow in their footsteps.
George and Bex are used to facing the day-to-day physical demands in their jobs as firefighters at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service respectively. The pair love to compete at a high level and have vast experience in elite competitive sport and extreme environments. George has scaled mountains including Elbrus and Kilimanjaro, while Bex has rowed for Great Britain and competed in the Rugby World Cup and Six Nations for Wales.
However, both have said the training for the Antarctic expedition has been a challenge at a completely new level.
Bex commented: “We are going to the coldest, windiest, driest, most hostile place on the planet, and we are the only all-female team doing it this year.”
George added: “The only contact we will have with the outside world is with a satellite phone, so we really are risking our lives to drive our point home, that girls and women can challenge the gender stereotype and find their courage to achieve despite societal barriers.”
Follow George and Bex’s expedition on
antarcticfireangels.co.uk. An ITV X documentary will be aired in February 2024.