The team bidding to walk across Antarctica in winter on the Coldest Journey on Earth have thanked people for their support after the withdrawal of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, with severe frostbite, but are adamant the trek will go on.
The 68-year-old explorer, from Exford in Somerset, suffered the injury after using his bare hands to fix a ski binding in temperatures of about –30C. The incident happened during training at their base camp in Antarctica.
Sir Ranulph – known as Ran – was said to have been “gutted” at being forced out of the 2,000-mile trek although his five team-mates are set to continue.
“Thank you to all of our well-wishers on this difficult day, your continued support means a tremendous amount to the entire team both in Antarctica and in the UK,” the team said.
“Sir Ranulph’s departure from the ice will be the first of no doubt many trials the Ice Team will have to surmount in coming months if they are to succeed in this epic challenge.
“They are a strong and experienced group, and those of us not on the ice have every faith that they will persevere regardless, and will make Ran and everybody else very proud of them.”
Efforts to evacuate Sir Ranulph are being hampered by blizzards. He needs to be moved some 40 miles to the Princess Elisabeth Station before he can be flown to Novo and on to Cape Town.
The trek is expected from Novolazareskaya in Russia to the Ross Sea is expected to take about six months.
No-one has managed the feat in winter before with near permanent darkness and temperatures dropping close to –90C.