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59 days of solitude for first woman to ski across Antarctica alone

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Felicity Aston became, on Monday, the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica. Here she is just days from completing the 59 day trek. (Facebook)

While some of us can hardly walk around Green Lake alone, others are able to spend 59 days in complete solitude battling the extreme conditions of Antarctica.

On Monday, British adventurer Felicity Aston became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica. She talked to 97.3 KIRO FM's Ross and Burbank Show from Chile just after finishing her adventure.

The journey from coast to coast (Leverett Glacier to Hercules Inlet) stretched 1,084 miles where she had no one to talk to.

"You are the only living thing for a very, very long way and that's the part of the attraction and appeal of the place in a away. It's what makes it special."

The physical feat of walking with skis strapped to your feet and dragging two sledges of food and fuel over extremely bumpy terrain -- all while navigating crevasses and oftentimes, a featureless landscape -- seems hard enough, but Aston said the solitude was also a major challenge.

"I sort of became friends with the sun, which sounds like I'm cracking up a bit, but it was my constant companion. I was talking to my shadow and I knew there was a lot of support."

Aston was forced to ration a stash of matches after discovering her three lighters wouldn't work in the cold, thin Antarctic air, but somehow she was also able to regularly send out messages over Twitter. She couldn't receive messages, but said it was comforting knowing that her 9,000 followers knew of her struggles.

Other times, it wasn't so easy and she admits getting out of her sleeping bag on some mornings seemed impossible. On those days, she employed several tactics for persevering, like distracting herself with music or just breaking down into a tantrum.

"I think we all have within us this ability to keep going. No matter what it takes, just keep going. Even if it means crying. If you can just manage that perseverance, it's amazing what we can achieve."

Aston said it still really hasn't sunk in yet that she managed to cross a whole continent by herself on skis, but she looks forward to figuring out how the experience will change her perspective on life and how she'll begin to prioritize new challenges.

She admits to panicking a bit when she boarded the plane for Chile, afraid that she would never again experience the level of solitude she felt in Antarctica and afraid she may never return.

While many of those 59 days were harsh, Aston said she's desperately trying to cling to those "rock bottom" moments.

"Those were the most amazing parts of the journey."

One of those breathtaking moments, Aston said, was when she reached the South Pole where nearly 300 people live and work in an American research station.

"Just outside the station is a big red and white pole with a silver ball on top surrounded by the flags of the nations that are part of the Antarctica treaty," she said. "It was a big moment to reach that silver ball and lay your hands on it."

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By Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com editor

Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Stephanie joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2008. She has built the site into a two-time National Edward R. Murrow Award winner (Best Radio Website 2010, 2012).
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