Polar pair set goal of pounds 2m

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THE EXPLORER Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his companion Dr Michael Stroud demonstrated their technique for dealing with deep, life-threatening crevasses yesterday.

The two men had to make do with the side of a 110-ft high building for the demonstration, during which they hauled a stretcher up the side of the Trade Tower at Plantation Wharf in Battersea, south London, a rescue exercise they hope they will never have to repeat for real.

Early next month, Sir Ranulph, 48, and Dr Stroud, 37, will attempt to make the first crossing of the Antarctic, via the South Pole, without dogs or air or other support. If the 2,200-mile trip is a success they should raise more than pounds 2m for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, carry out medical research and prove that death-defying explorers are not an extinct species. The two men will start from Gould Bay on the Filchner Ice Shelf, travel across 400 miles of moving glacier, drag their loads up to 10,000ft above sea level and trek across a plateau to the South Pole, in temperatures as low as minus 45C. Similarly daunting conditions will accompany their journey from the Pole to Scott Base on the other side of Antarctica. A ship will be there to pick them up at 6am on 27 February - if they are late it will not wait.

The history of Victorian Britain is strewn with men who took terrible risks, underwent appalling hardships and sometimes died dreadful deaths in the pursuit of glory or scientific knowledge. Sir Ranulph is of similar Boy's Own Paper ilk. He has already circumnavigated the globe via the North and South Poles and recently discovered the lost city of Ubar in Arabia's 'empty quarter'.

Yesterday, discussing the coming ordeal, he admitted that frostbite was always a problem, recalling that, on one expedition, he could not remember which part of his foot had fallen off inside his sock.

Starvation would be the thing most likely to prevent them reaching their goal this time, he said, a statement made with all the emotion of a man contemplating being late for work.

(Photograph omitted)