Sir Ranulph Fiennes tells of the frustration at having to give up attempt to cross Antarctic continent after suffering frostbite
The 68 year old explorer took of his gloves in minus 50 degree temperatures for around twenty minutes, to attend to ski bindings which had become loose.
“I'm not good at crying over spilt milk or split fingers but it is extremely frustrating,” he told journalists at a press conference at Heathrow airport.
“I started work on this expedition five years ago. I've been working full time and unpaid for five years. It is frustrating, but unavoidable. i will make the best of it by putting my focus full time on to making my focus entirely on the expedition team.”
Fiennes was training for the expedition, in which he would ski behind vehicles crossing the Antarctic, that was due to depart on March 21st, the first day the Antarctic winter.
“I was testing different types of binding, boots and skis,” he said. “We were in a white out, so I couldn't follow the tracks apart from the churn snow
“The fact it was churned made the bindings loose and with the bindings loose you just don't go anywhere, unless you tighten them up. With the big mitts you couldn't even peel a banana, so they come off, then the inside mitts, I've done Everest and the North Face of the Eigur in these inside mitts, both in very low temperatures. but on this occasion I had to take everything off in order to get to grips with these new types of bindings.
“I didn't have more than twenty minutes, but I realised that one hand, not both, had gone completely white, by which point it's too late to do anything about it. It's not the first time, it's happened twelve years ago. but since then I've done all sorts of things in the minutes fifties without a problem, so something in the circulation in that hand had gone wrong in the very recent past.”
Fiennes saw a vascular surgeon in Cape Town who, he said, among many questions, suggested diabetes may have been a cause. Mr Fiennes was told by his GP in London two and half months ago that a blood sample showed very early signs of type two diabetes.
The expedition is ongoing, and Fiennes will continue in a support role. The last time he suffered frostbite, on an unsupported trek to the North Pole where his equipment fell through thin ice, he grew so Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused while waiting for them to repair sufficiently for surgery, that he cut them off himself with a fretsaw.
The expedition aims to raise £6m for Seeing is Believing, a charity that fights to prevent avoidable blindness.