Sue Stockdale

Polar Adventurer

Location: London, UK

"I wondered what it would be like to survive in temperatures cold enough to freeze your flesh in seconds, so I sent off for the application form."

I decided to ski to the North Pole. It was after I saw an advert in a newspaper looking for novices to join a team to ski 350 miles to the Magnetic North Pole. Back in 1996, there has never been a woman from the UK who had accomplished this challenge. I wondered what it would be like to survive in temperatures cold enough to freeze your flesh in seconds, so I sent off for the application form.

When the application form arrived, it said "Are You Man Enough for the Ultimate Challenge?" and it was full of pictures of male explorers. I was incensed and decided that women could do it too, so it made me even more determined to get in the team.

Over 500 individuals applied for a place in the team, and the rigorous selection process included physical and psychological tests designed to pick the best group. One test was to complete the Sandhurst military assualt course, where the UK's best officers are trained—and it's not for the faint hearted. There was a huge rope ladder we had to climb, and I froze at the top because I have a fear of heights. I thought my hopes were dashed, as most other applicants sailed past leaving me behind. But two others helped me over, and later I found out that the organisers were not looking for amazing individuals, but great team players, and this moment had shown them who would look out for others in the team.

I had also revealed my vulnerability, and in a place like the Arctic, you have to be yourself, as there is nowhere to hide. These traits of asking for help, and showing vulnerability are vital for women to master.

I realised that by being myself, I could succeed. I was selected for the team, and as a result became the first British woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole. I realised that I could achieve more than i ever imagined was possible - but more importantly, by sharing my story with others, I could inspire them to take a step into the unknown and reveal more of their capabilities.