Skip to main content

Frostbite forces Ranulph Fiennes to quit Antarctic expedition

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
updated 9:28 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ranulph Fiennes pulls out of attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter
  • British adventurer suffers frostbite after trying to fix a ski binding
  • The expedition viewed as last great polar challenge
  • Rest of team will continue on 4,000 km journey without Fiennes

(CNN) -- Frostbite has forced British adventurer Ranulph Fiennes to quit his attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter -- a challenge his team regarded as the coldest journey on earth.

Tony Medniuk, the chairman of the expedition, said Fiennes' hand was frostbitten when he had to fix a loose ski binding with his bare hands in temperatures of around minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit).

"It is the last remaining great polar challenge," Medniuk told CNN.

"He was going to be on skis, in specially adapted clothing to withstand the temperatures, so that he would be the first person to actually ski across the Antarctic in winter."

Fiennes' evacuation has been delayed by a blizzard but he is expected to be transported by skidoo to the Princess Elisabeth Station about 70 kilometers (44 miles) away from his current position. From there he will be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town.

Ranulph Fiennes on Antarctic adventure

The other five members of the expedition will continue the journey without Fiennes as their leader, Medniuk said.

Read: Veteran explorer sets off on "The Coldest Journey."

They plan to travel almost 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) through icy wilderness mostly in complete darkness and in temperatures as low as minus 90 degrees Celsius. The journey is expected to take six months.

A Norwegian team recently completed a winter crossing of the Arctic but this is the first attempt to traverse the Antarctic.

Fiennes has previously been the first person to reach both the North and South Poles by land and the first to cross Antarctica on foot.

The team set sail from London in December and were building a base camp and supply depot inland from Crown Bay when Fiennes developed the case of frostbite. They are due to begin the polar crossing as scheduled on March 21.

Before his latest adventure, 68-year-old Fiennes described polar exploration as a drug or addiction.

"Once you get bitten by polar records, you keep going for it," he told CNN.

First woman to cross Antarctic solo: I've never felt so alone

Fiennes, who lost five fingers to frostbite on a previous expedition and also suffered heart problems during an attempt to climb Mt Everest, was sanguine about the risks of this adventure.

"I don't think about not coming back, because I mean, more people get killed on the roads here [London] than they do in Antarctica. I mean, I had a massive heart attack reading a magazine on an airplane. You don't need to go to Antarctica to pop it."

The expedition also aims to collect data on how climate change is affecting the Antarctic icecap in winter and raise $10 million for the blindness charity Seeing is Believing.

Adventurers recreate 'greatest survival story' of the Antarctic

CNN's Becky Anderson and journalist Tom Levitt in London contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 4:15 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT