Legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is to embark on another mission of extraordinary endurance, attempting to lead the first team on foot across Antarctica during the southern winter.
The 68-year-old former SAS officer will leave his home on the relatively balmy Exmoor to brave temperatures of minus 50C (minus 58F) during the expedition next year, when his group will make the trip called the Coldest Journey On Earth.
The challenge is the latest feat of endurance by the explorer who is hoping to raise 10 million US dollars (£6.17 million) for Seeing Is Believing, a charitable initiative to tackle avoidable blindness around the world.
The group will also take scientific instruments with them and carry out readings and measurements for scientists.
“There is a huge, blank knowledge of the winter of Antarctica, what is happening to Antarctica during a period when the scientists can’t normally get out there,” Sir Ranulph told BBC Breakfast. “Our caboose will be bristling with scientific instruments, for Nasa, for the European Space Agency.”
Sir Ranulph has broken several records and led many expeditions to remote regions. He was described by Guinness World Records in 1984 as “the world’s greatest living explorer”.
He is famous for taking part in the first successful circumnavigation via both the geographical poles, completed with Charles Burton in 1982. He also successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2009 at the age of 65, becoming the oldest Briton to achieve this feat.
Speaking to the BBC, Sir Ranulph said he thought of his wife, children and a “hot bath” during arduous challenges.
The team’s adventure will begin when they are dropped off on the Pacific coast of Antarctica, where they will set off over the ice shelf when the equinox arrives on March 21.
Sir Ranulph will then ascend 10,000ft on to the inland plateau, and head onwards to the South Pole. It will be hundreds of miles before the team drops 11,000ft back on to the ice shelf. After covering around 2,000 miles their gruelling journey will come to an end at the Ross Sea. While Sir Ranulph and a skiing partner will lead on foot, the BBC revealed that they will be followed by two bulldozers dragging industrial sledges. The sledges will carry the team’s living quarters, supplies, and a science laboratory. The fuel for the machines will be carried behind.
Making it alive across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world will be a daunting challenge. One hundred years ago Captain Scott died on the same ice shelf, as he was caught out by the start of the southern winter.
Sir Ranulph will be better prepared. In 1993 he became the first person to cross the Antarctic continent on foot, dragging a 450lb sledge.
In 2003 Sir Ranulph ran seven marathons in seven days, just four months after suffering a heart attack on an easyJet plane due to take off for Edinburgh from Bristol Airport – which led to an emergency bypass operation being carried out at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
In 2007 he climbed the North Face of the Eiger, one of the hardest challenges in the Alps.