Not even Sir Ranulph can beat frostbite: Fiennes pulls out of Antarctic challenge

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Explorer pulls out of Antarctic trek attempt after training fall

The man often hailed as the world’s greatest living explorer has been forced to withdraw from his coldest and most dangerous expedition across Antarctica after falling victim to his oldest adversary: severe frostbite.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is suffering from the condition after having to use his bare hands – in temperatures plummeting to -30C – to fix a ski binding after falling during training. But the 68-year-old’s evacuation to South Africa from the expedition’s base camp on the frozen continent was being hampered by blizzards.

The serial adventurer was set to be among a small group attempting to become the first people to trek 2,000 miles across Antarctica during winter, when it is almost permanently dark  and temperatures drop to -90C.

Until recently the Foreign Office had refused to grant permission to attempt to cross Antarctica during winter because it was deemed “far too risky”.

The sight-loss charity for which Fiennes and his colleagues hope to raise £6.6m, Seeing is Believing, said the  explorer had “very reluctantly” decided to withdraw from the six-month expedition. The charity said the decision had been supported by the team doctor.

Frostbite is triggered by exposing skin to freezing temperatures. Sir Ranulph is excruciatingly aware of the dangers, after cutting his own fingers off after a previous mission.

The explorer, known as Ran to friends, was the first person to reach both poles by trekking across land and ice, and was the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest, aged 65.

However, he suffered a major heart attack in 2003, which was thought to be linked to the high-fat diet preferred by polar explorers.

The team he is leaving has established a supply depot on the Antarctic plateau and is in an “excellent position” to begin crossing the continent.

The expedition’s co-leader, Anton Bowring, said: “While it is very disappointing for Ran, he remains fully committed to the project and will be active in the ongoing planning and operational management.”

Richard Meddings, Chairman of Seeing is Believing, said: “While we are terribly disappointed for Sir Ranulph, we are also glad that he is safe.”

The rest of The Coldest Journey team are set to continue the expedition.

Fiennes had been attempting to lead the first team on foot across Antarctica during the southern winter.

He lost the fingers on his left hand during an attempt in 2000 to reach the North Pole unaided.

The expedition aimed to raise $10m for Seeing is Believing to help fight blindness.

Hard man: Fiennes’ legend

Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s decision to cut off his own dead fingers has passed into exploring folklore.

In 2000, he lost the tips of his fingers on his left hand during an unaided attempt to reach the North Pole.

On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months before amputation, to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes cut them off himself with a fretsaw, just above where the soreness was.

The tip of his little finger was removed after two hours sawing; it took five days to complete the job.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links