Pole walk firefighters aim to inspire other women

Two firefighters from south Wales aiming to inspire other women have skied and walked the equivalent of 29 marathons from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.

Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe, 42, and Georgina Gilbert, 49, trekked more than 745 miles (1,200km) in 52 days with temperatures as low as minus 41C (-41.8F)

The pair also wanted to challenge gender stereotypes.

They were unsupported and carried their own food and equipment which weighed more than 100kg (15st 7lb) each.

Mrs Openshaw-Rowe, who lives in Pyle, Bridgend county, said: "There was huge excitement, relief and joy when we reached the South Pole."

She said the hardest thing during the trek had been the feeling of "groundhog day".

"It was mentally tough. The only choices were being evacuated or to keep going.

“We never faltered. We didn’t want to let people down, we didn’t want to let ourselves down.

"We had spoken to more than 10,000 kids in school talks, we didn’t want to let them down either," she added.

Mrs Openshaw-Rowe is a firefighter with Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue, while Ms Gilbert has been with South Wales Fire and Rescue for 25 years.

Known as the Antarctic Fire Angels, they were the first people to complete their chosen route from Union Glacier on the west coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.

The expedition took more than four years of planning and training and they had to learn all the skills they needed, including learning to ski and live in the cold.

“Age helps with long expeditions,” said Mrs Openshaw-Rowe.

"You have life experience, things to think about and you’re mentally stronger.”

Their message is that it is never too late to try something new.

“Live your dreams, enjoy trying and have the courage to give it a go,” she added.

The pair missed home comforts such as a flushing toilet and home-cooked food but Mrs Openshaw-Rowe said she missed her wife and two dogs most.

She said it was nice to be "getting back to normality" and could not believe they had completed the trek.

“It feels like a dream, it’s surreal and quite emotional looking at pictures," she added.

The Antarctic Fire Angels continue to raise money for The Fire Fighters Charity, which provides support for serving and retired members of the fire and rescue services.