Sir Ranulph Fiennes is setting out on his final expedition at the age of 68, and quite possibly his most difficult. The British thrill-seeker is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, “the world’s greatest living explorer.” This is not a title lightly earned. Fiennes is the first person in history to visit both north and south poles by surface and also the first to cross the length of Antarctica on foot.
According to The Coldest Journey’s official site, Fiennes will lead a five-man expedition across Antarctica in the dead of winter. If successful, the expedition will mark the first such journey undertaken during the continent’s coldest and most inhospitable season. The six-month, 2,000-mile journey will involve temperatures as low as -90°C, freezing winds, and rough terrain. Antarctica will have little to no sunlight during this time, so Fiennes and his team will be traveling mostly in the dark. In order to adequately prepare for the undertaking, the team trained to be completely self-sufficient. Gear includes the Cold Avenger by Talus Outdoors and other equipment to help the team survive the super-cold conditions. Eventualities must be prepared for as rescue may not be an option during the winter months.
“I’m doing this for many reasons, some of which I don’t fully understand. That there is an inner urge is undeniable,” said Fiennes.
Why is Sir Ranulph Fiennes giving up six months of hot baths, clean clothes, and fast food? The mission is twofold: to conduct a series of scientific experiments to reach a better understanding of the Antarctic, and to raise $10 million for charity. The Coldest Journey will directly benefit Seeing is Believing, a charitable initiative to fight avoidable blindness.
“I’m very excited about the whole expedition,” says team member Spencer Smirl. “The fear has gone and the excitement has overpowered it. I’ve always loved snow and Antarctica will give me plenty. I can’t wait to get there.”
The expedition is currently undergoing further preparations for the journey, which is set to commence this March. Fiennes remains confident that the trip will be a success, although he acknowledges the hardships ahead.
“The conditions we will face may be nightmarish, they may from time to time be show-stoppers,” he said. “Steel and rubber may crack up. So may some of us.”
As an explorer who had previously dipped his feet in Antarctic snow, Fiennes understands that the truly darkest continent can test even the mettle of experienced explorers.
“The members of the Team are the best from across the Commonwealth. No one has been paid a penny. All risk a lot,” he added.
The route that the expedition will take is shown below:
Images courtesy The Coldest Journey