It was with a warm embrace that Catherine, Princess of Wales, greeted record breaker Captain Preet Chandi – the British Indian army officer popularly known as Polar Preet for her polar exploits.
The duo met at Landau Forte College in Derby, Preet’s home city, this week and Chandi was heard saying that she was excited to welcome the royal to her hometown.
The Princess described Chandi as a “shining example of fortitude” following her record-breaking feats, most recently completing the longest solo, unsupported, and unassisted polar expedition when she returned from her Antarctic expedition last month. She travelled 922 miles across Antarctica in temperatures as cold as minus 30 degrees Celsius and broke the previous record by retired army officer Henry Worsley in 2015 at 907 miles.
Over 70 days and 16 hours in wind speeds of up to 60mph, Chandi skied for between 13 and 15 hours per day with around five hours’ sleep at time and pulled all her kit and supplies on a sledge or pulk, weighing around 120kg.
Reliving the expedition on her blog, Chandi reflected: “It was very cold and windy but I kept my breaks very short so I didn’t get too cold.
“I didn’t let myself stop earlier though because I wanted to get the miles in.”
During her meeting with the Princess of Wales, the focus of discussions was on the issue of mental health and resilience.
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"It's been great to see her channelling what she's been able to achieve in the years that she's been working towards this incredible goal. I really hope it inspires you all to believe in yourself, to push your boundaries and also to look and really work on your own resilience too," the royal said in her speech.
Chandi, 33, has already completed a trekking challenge to set the record for a solo unsupported trek to the South Pole. After her latest challenge, she expressed her disappointment at not having enough time to meet her original aim of becoming the first woman to cross Antarctica solo and unsupported.
“I’m pretty gutted that I don’t have the time to complete the crossing. I know that I have done a huge journey, it’s just difficult while I’m on the ice and I know it’s not that far away,” she noted.
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Since returning to the UK at the end of January, she has been logging her road to recovering from the incredible feat, which has taken quite a toll on her body.
“I sometimes forget that I finished the expedition just over a week ago. My body still aches and I’m recovering from the cold injury on my calf,” she shared this week.
*Info: Polar Preet