Student's 21st will be a real high point

ENVIRONMENT Editor TONY HENDERSON talks to a student for whom the big freeze rather than fees is the main issue.

mount elbrus, Bryony Balen

WHILE many commuters will have been cursing the snow, student Bryony Balen can’t get enough.

It fits in perfectly with her training schedule to be the youngest Briton to reach the South Pole from Hercules Inlet on the edge of Antarctica.

Bryony, 19, a second-year geography student at Newcastle University, plans to spend her 21st birthday at the midway point of a 730-mile trek by foot and Nordic skis to the Pole.

It means she knows exactly what she will be wearing for her 21st – layers of thermals, fleece jumpers, leggings and down boots.

“You are only 21 once so I thought I would make it a bit special,” said Bryony, who lives in Sandyford, Newcastle. Unlike most other women, Bryony, 5ft 7ins and 8st 10Ibs, will have to try to put on weight.

This is because participants in the expedition trek – estimated to last between 63 and 70 days – can lose two stone in weight.

Bryony will be hauling a sledge packed with her equipment, clothing, food and tent.

The effort, plus the energy used in fighting the cold and coping with the extreme conditions, causes the weight loss.

She said: “It will be a shock to the system out there. To put on weight I have a nutrition plan and I am training to build up muscle density.” Bryony’s training includes running and cycling, boot camp sessions and workouts with the university’s rowing club.

She also does rock climbing and bouldering in between working at the Go Outdoors outdoor equipment store in West Denton, Newcastle. While she’s in the shop, Bryony is wearing 2.5lb ankle weights to get her hips and legs used to the extra strain.

She is planning to undertake the trek with American exploration company Polar Explorers and is seeking to raise funds through commercial and other sponsorship.

She will have to fly to Punta Arenas in Chile, then take a four and a half hour flight to the Patriot Hills base camp, with a final short flight to Hercules Inlet. The idea stemmed from a pact she made with friend Daniel Hughes when they climbed Mt Blanc at the age of 17 and then decided that one day they would attempt to reach the Poles.

Bryony’s ambition was strengthened by hearing a talk by Andrew Cooney, who at 23 is the current youngest Briton to reach the South Pole.

“I just started thinking ‘It’s there, why not go for it?’” said Bryony.

Last summer she climbed Mt Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe.

She hopes the trip may also provide a basis for her dissertation on her return, looking at climatic changes in the polar regions.

She said: “If I do get to the South Pole I will consider myself incredibly fortunate.”

Her brother, Robin, runs an internet hosting company, Gyron, and he is setting up the online communications that she will need during her adventure.

To sponsor Bryony, visit her website at

You are only 21 once so I thought I would make it a bit special. If I do get to the South Pole I will consider myself incredibly fortunate


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
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