Fiennes: If British team can’t make the coldest trek, Norwegians will

2013-03-05 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Within the first three minutes of his media conference yesterday, Sir Ranulph Fiennes used the word “frustrating” five times.

“It is terribly frustrating. I’ve been working on the project for five years without pay,” the British adventurer said of having to quit his wintertime Antarctic crossing because of frostbite.

“Now I’ll have to make the best of the bad situation,” he said in London.

He had to be evacuated from Antarctica last week, leaving behind his team of five to attempt the “Coldest Journey” without him after suffering severe frostbite when he took off a glove to adjust a ski binding. He is set to have surgery that may see him lose parts of two fingers.

“I was doing my ski exercise for the day when there was suddenly a whiteout. All I could see were my black skis. I skied cautiously back on the route that I had followed the day before.”

Swerving in and out of the ski tracks loosened the bindings. He tried to tighten them while wearing his bulky gloves but, failing to do so, took off an outer glove and grasped the metal with only a liner glove.

This immediately caused frostbite on the same hand that had been damaged in a similar way in 2000. His attempts took about 20 minutes in a temperature of -33C. “One can sit and do nothing and die,” he said of the risk, “or you can do something”.

He was treated immediately when he rejoined the team and it was decided that he should leave the expedition. The other five team members — Brian Newham, Ian Prickett, Dr Ron Lambert, Spencer Smirl and Richmond Dykes — decided to continue.

Fiennes had nothing but praise for them. “From my side I have done everything possible to make it a success.” The team have established their last food and fuel depot and are ready to start the journey in caterpillar tractors on March 20. The crossing will be attempted on skis.

Although the dream is not in his destiny now, he believes it is indeed possible.

“I am certain the Norwegians will achieve it within the next five years,” he said of the old competitors in the world of Antarctic adventure. “The only reason they haven’t done it yet is because they know the risks.”

And what of his future?

“Ask me when my wife’s here,” he laughed.

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