Royal Patron HRH The Prince of Wales
In aid of Special Olympics GB

In 2007 Rosie skied, climbed and swam solo, over the surface of the frozen Arctic Oceans across shifting ice, towards the geographic North Pole for 426 nautical miles over 84 days; during which time she was battling conditions that are now recognised as the worst on record.

Temperatures sunk into unprecedented minus 60s centigrade and there were three hurricane-force storms.  The high winds and strong sea currents provoked the ice into violent behaviour, making the going dangerous and demanding, especially with a badly frostbitten foot.  Toes had to be removed after becoming gangrenous but the expedition continued despite some narrow squeaks.

Only on the last leg and with 89 nautical miles to go, at the final resupply, Rosie was confronted with the hardest decision of the entire expedition. The ice was disintegrating fast and the pilots would not be able to return to pick her up at 90 degrees north without either a serious risk to their own safety or having to initiate an emergency evacuation. Rosie subjugated her own ambitions for these hardy twin otter pilots whom she had come to know and respect, and left the ice.

Over 84 days, Rosie travelled significantly further than any previous attempts by women and to do this day holds the World Record.  Quite possibly, and more meaningfully, this attempt will be a “World Last”.


The North Pole is the axis of the earth’s rotation where all lines of longitude and time zones converge. Lying, amidst the floating pack in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, to reach her, is a deadly obstacle path, across battling ice floes as they crush together and splinter apart with relentless violence. Walls of ice rubble, pressure ridges reaching 50 feet high and over, can stretch in tight rows for miles. Temperatures sink to minus 60 degrees, exasperated by the ever more frequent hurricane winds that ravage the top of the world.

Such a challenge is regarded as one of the toughest in the world, which is probably why it remains the last of the remaining Polar challenges of real gravitas. Rosie’s bid of 2007 remains the world record as the woman to come closest to reaching the Pole by several hundred nautical miles.

With global climate changes ravaging the arctic ice, Rosie acknowledges that her achievement might well continue to stand as a record but not so much as a vain-glorious world first, as quite possibly a world last.

To make a bid to reach 90 degrees north from the landmass some 486km as its start point is a mental and physical endeavour of the greatest possible order. Accompanied by two sledges Rosie walked, skied, climbed and swum across the ice, navigating by compass, sun and wind. Between three airdropped resupplies, Rosie was totally reliant on the kit, equipment, food and fuel in her sledges.

The expedition of this magnitude was would have been undertaken in support of, and to raise awareness for, Special Olympics Great Britain. and Veterans Aid. Educational scientific research would represent an important role, with physiological research being carried out as on previous expeditions as well as the gathering of meteorological and environmental observations and data whilst on the ice.

The disappearing Polar Ice Cap – NASA Video

Images copyright ©  Martin Hartley. All rights reserved.