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Sophie Montagne helps create Antarctica record

An Army reservist who grew up in Bredgar was part of the first all-female team to cross Antarctica unaided.

Sophie Montagne was one of six soldiers, dubbed the Ice Maidens, who travelled up to 45km a day, navigating treacherous crevasse fields while pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg and battling temperatures as low as minus 56C.

They crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet on the western edge of the continent after spending 62 days trekking across frozen desert.

The Ice Maidens in Antarctica
The Ice Maidens in Antarctica

Sophie, 34, lived in Bredgar most of her life until moving to Sussex 10 years ago. She went to Tunstall Primary until the age of 11 and then to an Ashford school.

She grew up with parents, Vanessa and Jan-Ernst and brother Ross, now 36, on a farm in Bredgar. Her mum and dad still own the village farm shop which they lease out.

Vanessa, 64, said: “We got a fantastic call from her on Saturday.

“They were obviously thrilled to have done it. It was a huge selection process – 250 people put themselves forward.

“We didn’t really think she would get that far but then the numbers kept going down and down to 20 and so on.

“When it got to the last 10 or eight our competitive side came out and we were pleased when she was selected.

Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne
Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne

“She’s an Army reservist. Only two of them on the trip were not full-time.”

She said her daughter and the team trained rigorously in Norway before the trip.

“She is really good at pushing herself to do whatever she does not feel comfortable with.”

“She hated the cold but she had to do the training in Norway to get used it. They were throwing themselves down crevasses.

"Luckily they didn’t have any trouble on the expedition but it must have made quite an amazing view, throwing yourself down a bottomless pit.”

Jan-Ernst, 64, said: “I’m not altogether surprised. She has always had an iron will. It’s an enormous achievement and it’s very brave of her.

The group touching the silver globe at the South Pole
The group touching the silver globe at the South Pole

“They trained for two years and it was quite a marathon before they reached the finish.

"They’ve done it with a tremendous amount of confidence and they don’t to appear to have had any particular problems.”

When asked where Sophie’s adventurous nature comes from, he said: “There’s a bit of a streak in her mother,” before adding Sophie and her brother have always been very independent.


  • Lance Sgt Sophie Montagne is a section commander in the Honourable Artillery Company Army Reserves Regiment at the weekends and during the week works in marketing in central London.
  • Sophie learned to ski with the Army’s Officer Training Corps at university. She is an Army ski instructor and has raced for her regiment, breaking the national speed limit when she hit 73mph in the downhill.
  • She has a degree in Spanish and lived in Spain and Mexico and began a career in journalism, later moving into marketing.
  • She joined the Honourable Artillery Company looking for a physical challenge to offset her desk job. She loves mountains and is a keen trail runner, completing the Jura Fell Race and running 60km in 24hrs in the Thunder Run in 2016.
  • The Ice Maidens started on the Ross Ice Shelf in November before climbing the Transantarctic Mountains, via the Leverett Glacier, to reach the polar plateau. After a resupply at the South Pole they skied 600km before reaching a final resupply point at the base of the Thiel Mountains and descending to the finish line.

When the team reached the South Pole, she said: “It was the middle of the night when we arrived and there was not a soul to be seen.

"This really added to the poignancy of the moment as the Pole was ours alone – cue a flood of tears from almost every team member.”

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