Women At The Top Awards: Meet Major Natalie Taylor, The Frontline Explorer

We've scoured the UK to find the most inspirational innovators for Marie Claire's Women At The Top Awards, in association with Windows 10 and Freixenet. Meet Major Natalie Taylor, one of the ten game-changers who have shaped 2015.

In 2017, Major Natalie Taylor will lead an all-female army team on a trek across the Antarctic as part of Exercise ‘Ice Maiden’. The aim is to collect data on female endurance in extreme environments, as well as inspire women to take part in what are often seen as male activities. While she’s preparing, Natalie is a regimental medical officer for the British Army, and leads the Army Medical Services Ladies Nordic & Biathlon ski team. This year, she won the 6633 Arctic Ultra marathon, a 350-mile footrace in the Canadian Arctic, in which she pulled her own provisions on a sled.

‘Exercise ‘Ice Maiden’ will take 60-70 days. There will be between four and six of us, and it’s the first time an all-female army team is travelling coast to coast via the South Pole. It’s 1,000 miles of skiing, pulling our own kit. We’ve had over 250 applicants. My job is to secure the sponsorship, which is important, but time-consuming.

Our success relies on us being prepared, so to get ready we’re doing three 10-day exercises in Norway. Some of the women have to learn to ski, and other skills include learning to pull the sledges on skis, putting up tents in strong winds, melting ice, eating dehydrated food for prolonged periods – all things you don’t think of until you’re faced with a polar environment.

I’m all about promoting women in the army. The Polar regions have had many expeditions led by men, or with mixed teams, but none solely women. It’s a huge undertaking and the response I’ve had when I tell people what I’m doing has been mostly positive. Of course, we’ve had the jokes about getting “in sync” and everyone being grumpy on the same day.

I was a general duty medical officer in Helmand Province in 2011. I was in a control base in a remote location with 130 men, and was often the only female in the camp. I never felt out of place, and I quickly became one of the lads. We only had one shower, so someone made a “chick in the shower” sign which I’d put up outside. We were very fortunate – everyone came back home at the end of our tour.’

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