A FORMER Chipping Norton mayor says she has “unfinished business” as she prepares for a South Pole expedition next year.

Jan Meek, 69, is currently trying to reach the Mount Everest base camp at about 5,500m. She set off on the 18-day trek on Thursday, April 3, with seven others and will walk 10 miles a day.

As part of her challenge, she will hike along Nepal’s Dudh Kosi river and climb to the Sherpa settlement of Namche Bazaar.

Mrs Meek will then try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September after narrowly failing to reach the summit two years ago as part of training for the South Pole attempt in December 2015.

She said: “Altitude training is key to any South Pole success, so this is our start. Our next hurdle is Kilimanjaro, part of my own unfinished business.”

Mrs Meek, who now lives in Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, served on Chipping Norton Town Council in the 1980s and 1990s and was chairman of the town’s chamber of trade and commerce.

She lived in the town with her husband Keith and owned a children’s clothes shop. She moved when he died in 1993.

In 1997, she rowed across the Atlantic in 101 days with her son Dan Byles, now North Warwickshire MP.

She became the world’s oldest person to row any ocean, then 53, in the first ever Atlantic rowing race and holds three Guinness World Records for the first mother and son to row an ocean, the first mother and son to walk or ski to either pole and the oldest woman to walk or ski to the magnetic North Pole.

She now tours the country giving motivational speeches.

Her second husband Peter Walker said: “I get text messages from her and she says the weather hasn’t been brilliant, so it’s been tough work. She is one of these truly inspirational people and has done more in her life than most of us would want.”

She is expected home on Tuesday.



  • 1997: Mrs Meek and her son Dan Byles took part in the world’s first ocean rowing race. Neither of them were rowers or sailors but they travelled 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.
  • 2007: The pair then took part in the Polar race. Along with team-mate Richard Profit, they walked and skied 350 miles from Resolute in Canada to the magnetic North Pole. They survived the worst ice conditions in years and a tent fire to reach the Pole in 20 days and five hours.
  • 2008: Mrs Meek joined David Hempleman-Adams’ expedition to the geographic North Pole. Upon reaching the Pole, they played cricket with a team from the Indian navy.