A STUDENT is planning to spend her 21st birthday achieving a lifelong ambition of becoming the youngest Briton to reach the South Pole.

Bryony Balen, who is now 19 and studying geography at Newcastle University, is aiming to reach the Hercules Inlet.

To achieve this, she will have to ski across 1,100km of ice in freezing temperatures, pulling a sledge that weighs up to 70kg.

The original idea stemmed from a pact she made with a climbing partner several years ago, but her resolve was strengthened after meeting the current youngest Briton to reach the South Pole, Andrew Cooney.

When he came to talk to her Scout group about tackling the challenge aged 23, she asked him what barriers women faced when tackling a similar expedition.

Miss Balen, from Melbourne, Derbyshire, said: “He basically said it’s too hard for women, so don’t try, and that was like a red rag to a bull.

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

Miss Balen has started training to ensure she is at peak fitness by the time the expedition leaves in a year’s time. She cycles to university every day and has also joined the rowing club. She is finding that the team’s current six training sessions a week is more than enough to maintain her fitness levels.

However, her main dilemma is that she has to put on three stones before she leaves, because most people lose about two stones during the expedition and have put on about a stone in muscle through training.

She said: “I have a 1kg bag of high energy snacks on me all the time, but it is going to be really difficult.”