Sir Ranulph Fiennes forced to abandon Everest climb

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The Independent Online

The world's greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, has abandoned his attempt to conquer Mount Everest because of worries about his health. Sir Ranulph, 61, was attempting to become the first person to have traversed both polar ice caps and climbed the world's highest mountain. He was just nine hours from the 29,000ft summit when he decided to turn back.

A spokesman for his Jagged Edge team said Sir Ranulph had been pushing himself too hard. "At 61, he is very old to be doing something of this magnitude, despite the fact he has got the most amazing track record," said Tom Briggs. "He will obviously be disappointed." The bad climbing weather would have hampered his attempt too.

Sir Ranulph's wife, Louise, said she was proud of him. "He is feeling positive in that he knows he has achieved a huge amount and is very relieved to be back among lower-level civilisation where there's plenty of oxygen. It won't have been an easy decision but a very, very wise one that I'm proud he's made."

Of the team of 11 climbers, just seven reached the summit and they will now all make their way down the mountain. Sir Ranulph will be checked by a doctor but is likely to feel better once he reaches a lower altitude, Mr Briggs said. He is expected to return to the UK at the end of this week. He was hoping to raise £2m for the British Heart Foundation.

Sir Ranulph, who according to Guinness World Records is the world's greatest living explorer, suffered a heart attack in 2003. He recovered enough to be able to complete seven marathons on seven continents just a few months later. However, climbing at altitude can put a strain on the cardiovascular system.

Sir Ranulph achieved fame for completing the first successful circumnavigation of the globe on its polar axis in 1982. He has also trekked across Antarctica. Later this year, Sir Ranulph will visit Africa for the first time. He will take part in an expedition through Zambia, travelling by canoe along the Zambezi, retracing the journey of Dr David Livingstone.