Ranulph Fiennes withdraws from Antarctic expedition

Ranulph Fiennes has developed a case of severe frostbite that has forced the world famous explorer to withdraw from the "Coldest Journey" expedition across Antarctica.

According to the BBC, the 68-year-old developed severe frostbite during whiteout

In this May 24, 2009 file photo, British explorer Ranulph Fiennes, who became the oldest Briton to scale Mount Everest, is seen relaxing on his return from the mountain in Katmandu, Nepal. (Binod Joshi/Associated Press)

The 68-year-old world famous explorer, Ranulph Fiennes, has pulled out of an Antarctic expedition due to severe frostbite, according to an official statement released today.

The statement, released by Louise Nash, public relations manager for WSM Communications, reads: "We regret to announce that Sir Ranulph Fiennes has developed a case of frostbite. The condition is such that he has very reluctantly decided with the support of the team doctor and in the interests of the success of the expedition and its associated aims, to withdraw from Antarctica while the possibility to do so still exists, before the onset of the Antarctic winter. This decision has not been taken lightly and it is, naturally, a huge disappointment to Fiennes and his colleagues."

The BBC claims that "the 68-year-old was injured after a fall while skiing during training at a base camp in Antarctica. He used his bare hands to fix a ski binding in temperatures around -30 C."

Fiennes left London for Antarctica with a team of five colleagues on Dec. 6, 2012. Their aim was to complete the first-ever trans-Antarctic winter expedition, dubbed "the Coldest Journey." Their expedition was to also raise money for Seeing is Believing, a charity which helps to prevent avoidable blindness.

The trek would see the group cover 4,000 kilometres, mostly in complete darkness and in temperatures as low as -90 C, according to the Ranulph Fiennes official website.

Storm weather hinders evacuation

"Fiennes will be transported by skidoo to the Princess Elisabeth Station about 70 kilometres away from his current position, from where he will be flown to Novo to get a connecting flight to Cape Town," read the statement.

"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."

According to the statement, the remaining five members of the Coldest Journey team, including Canadian bulldozer driver and mechanic, Spencer Smirl, will stay behind and attempt to complete the expedition under the leadership of Traverse Manager Brian Newham.

This photo, taken in Sept. 2012, shows a bulldozer being offloaded as part of preparations for the cross-Antarctic trek (Canadian Broadcast Corporation)

Anton Bowring, expedition co-leader, said: "While it is very disappointing for Ran, the only aspect of the project that will suffer as a result of these events is Ran's attempt to be the first person to ski across Antarctica in winter. In all other respects the project's ambitions remain in place. Ran remains fully committed to the project and will be active in the on-going planning and operational management."

Fiennes is known as the "world's greatest living explorer" and has completed many notable achievements, including becoming the first person to reach both the poles by using surface means. 

Fiennes has suffered from severe frostbite before, according to the BBC website. In 2000, he lost the fingers on his left hand due to frostbite while on an unaided attempt to make it to the North Pole.