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NO SWEAT

Snow queens in their element

No Horizon Is So Far Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft, with Cheryl Dahle Two Women and Their Extraordinary Journey Across Antarctica Da Capo Press, 2003, $26

October 07, 2003|Susan Dworski

Antarctica cuts no slack, as polar explorers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft quickly discover. Ex-teachers in their mid-40s who share lifelong Arctic dreams, they join forces to mount the first women's trans-Antarctic crossing on skis. Their intimate journals trace a grueling 2,700-mile route, 90 days of crunching across fields of blue ice, dragging 250-pound supply sledges, belly-whomping over frozen wind-waves, and stumbling blindly through whiteouts.

Success depends on sails rigged to pull them to their takeout ship before winter closes in. But they are bedeviled by a ripped shoulder, bent titanium toggle bars, snarled sail ropes and, worst of all, grounded by hellacious winds.

Their agonizing decision whether to bow to bad weather and bail out by air without skiing the last 400 miles is perhaps the most courageous moment in an inspiring hero's journey of ordinary women performing extraordinary feats, wisely, bravely, with strength and grace.

Susan Dworski

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