Ranulph Fiennes Pulls Out of Polar Trek

Explorer suffered frostbite

Caty Enders

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More difficult than crossing Antarctica in winter? Raising millions of dollars and making years of preparations to cross Antarctica in winter, then having to drop out due to frostbite from a training run.

British explorer Ranulph Fiennes, described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest living explorer, was due to lead a record-breaking expedition to the South Pole as part of the “The Coldest Journey” beginning March 21. But on a practice ski near base camp in Antarctica this past week, he attempted to fix a ski binding using his bare hands in -85-degree temperatures, injuring himself and forcing an emergency evacuation.

The 68-year-old Fiennes has suffered frostbitten hands before—and taken it upon himself to amputate his own fingers using a fretsaw. But a winter expedition to the South Pole offers no opportunity for resuce, so even a minor injury would be considered a deal-breaker. The team plans to continue the 2,000-mile trek without him.

But first they have to get Fiennes off the ice, which, according to the press release, seems no simple matter:

Right now the team is working toward evacuating Fiennes from Antarctica. He will be transported by skidoo to the Princess Elisabeth Station about 70km away from his current position, from where he will be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town. This plan is currently being hampered due to a blizzard at their present location, which is making the first stage of the evacuation impossible. Until there is a let up in the weather conditions, Fiennes will be unable to leave.

The team recently posted a video of the extreme weather conditions that might have contributed to the injury:

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