6 December 2017

The ACFA is proud to be supported by the Ice Maidens - a team of six British Army and Army Reserve women who undertook an incredible trek across Antarctica.

The Army Cadet Force Association is one of just two charities supported by The Ice Maidens' during their gruelling 1,700km trek across Antarctica.

The Ice Maidens are the first all-female team to complete this extraordinary challenge. Their aim was to inspire girls and women to seek out and embrace challenges and achieve goals they never thought possible, while promoting female leadership, teamwork and an active lifestyle – a goal the ACF also shares.

The Army Cadet Force started enrolling girls in the mid-1980s and now they make up 33 per cent of Army Cadets – taking part in tough challenges and activities alongside their male peers.

The Army Cadets encourages nearly 39,000 young people (girls and boys) from a range of backgrounds to learn more, do more and test their limits, in part by taking on new physical and mental challenges. Young people who join the cadets participate in a range of activities from adventurous training (such as kayaking, mountain biking and abseiling) to military-themed activities, first aid, music and sports. In addition, they can gain valuable vocational qualifications and develop important life skills.

The physical and mental challenges cadets undertake have a number of positive benefits – helping to build character, self-discipline and resilience, improving the cadets’ physical fitness and increasing their confidence.

Icy Challenge

The Ice Maidens team comprised: Maj Nicola Wetherill and Maj Natalie Taylor from the Royal Army Medical Corps, Maj Sandy Hennis (Royal Signals), Lt Jenni Stephenson and Capt Zanna Baker from the Royal Artillery and Lsgt Sophie Montagne from the Honourable Artillery Company.

 Major Nicola Wetherill (

During their trek across Antarctica the six Ice Maidens had to rely on just their physical and mental strength. Unsupported, and with only two re-supply points along the route, they carried all the supplies and equipment they needed to survive for up to 600km at a time.

The Ice Maiden team began their 1,000-mile expedition on 20 November - each pulling an 80kg sledge behind them. The group had anticipated that the journey would take between 75 and 90 days but after just 62 days on the ice, the six soldiers crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet a little before 10:00 GMT on 21 January.

During the journey (beginning on 20 November) the team battled temperatures of -50°C and wind speeds of over 60 mph. They also took part in a research project into female endurance in extreme conditions.

The six women were chosen from more than 250 applicants. They trained arduously for more than two years for the expedition, including a 14-day trip to a remote part of Norway where they dug snow holes, put up tents in the dark in icy winds, and coped with temperatures of -20C. The Ice Maidens learned to pull themselves out of arctic water; crevasse rescue skills and how to ski whilst pulling their bodyweight in supplies on sledges or “pulks” behind them.

Major Sandy Hennis, a Reservist officer with 37 Signal Regiment in Redditch, acknowledges that this sort of challenge is not be a popular one – as yet.

“I have always done outdoor challenges and I have to say it is noticeable that there aren’t many women who take on challenges like myself,” she said.

“I want women to know what we are capable of and to push themselves,” she added.

Via Twitter (@exicemaiden)

This team is an inspiration to female cadets and the ACF is fortunate to have been supported by the Ice Maidens.

Learn more about the Ice Maidens expedition and their support for the ACFA and Breast Cancer Care.

Find out how to donate to the Army Cadet Force Association (the ACF’s charitable arm) so that it can provide grants and bursaries to help ensure that all cadets can take part in cadet activities, regardless of their background and personal means.