Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Antarctic trek canceled due to frostbite
An Antarctic snow storm prevented the evacuation Tuesday of adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, injured while attempting the icy continent’s first winter crossing, the expedition said.
The 68-year-old Briton was holed up in the team’s cabin with frostbite and the expedition now hoped to start his evacuation to South Africa on Wednesday.
“Ran has frostbite injuries to four fingers of his left hand,” said Robert Lambert, the group’s doctor.
The veteran explorer suffered frostbite after he removed a glove to adjust a ski binding, forcing him to withdraw from the marathon trek.
Fiennes had suffered severe frostbite to the same hand during a 2000 expedition, and sawed off the damaged parts of his fingers himself.
It was too soon to assess the full extent of the new damage to the hand, but treatment was going well, said Lambert.
“To continue skiing with this injury in these conditions would be to invite much more severe damage,” he added.
The team is waiting for a break in the bad weather to get Fiennes to Princess Elisabeth Station, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) away.
The plan is then to fly him to Novo air base for a flight to Cape Town, from where the expedition ship sailed in early January.
“Ran is bearing up with his usual fortitude and good cheer,” said Lambert.
The five remaining members of the team will press on with the mission, dubbed The Coldest Journey, and are set to start the winter crossing on March 21.
The group hopes to be the first to make a more than 2,000-mile crossing in winter.
The team members will face six months of mostly darkness in an area where temperatures can plunge to minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).
The team is led by two skiers carrying radars, followed by two tractors pulling sledge-mounted, converted containers with the rest of the team, equipment, fuel and food.
The furthest winter journey in Antarctica thus far covered 60 miles in the early 20th century.
Once described as the “world’s great living explorer” by the Guinness Book of Records, Fiennes has multiple records under his belt.
He was the oldest Briton to summit Mount Everest, has crossed both polar ice caps, and has crossed the Antarctic unsupported.