Think of Sir Ranulph Fiennes as a real-life counterpart to Dos Equis’ iconic spokesman, ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’. He was the first man to cross both the North and South Pole using surface routes. At age 63, he reached the top of Eiger by way of the Swiss mountain’s notorious North Face — and two years later, he summitted Mount Everest. The Guinness Book of World Records names him as the ‘World’s Greatest Living Explorer’. Just look at the man’s official title: Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, Order of the British Empire. And get this — he was a demolitions expert for the British Army, but was eventually kicked out for attempting to demolish an English dam merely because he found it unattractive. Fiennes’ biographer definitely has his work cut out for him.
Well, the seasoned badass is at it again. Twenty years ago, Fiennes and Dr. Mike Stroud (a noted nutritionist) became the first two people to traverse Antarctica on foot. Now, at age 68, the explorer is essentially attempting to outdo his own achievement by leading the first expedition across the Antarctic surface during the cold winter months, when nighttime temperatures can reach lows of roughly -90 degrees Celsius/-130 degrees Fahrenheit. According to CNN, Fiennes estimates that the 4,000-kilometer/2,485-mile journey will take roughly six months to complete. The official expedition won’t officially kick off until March, but Fiennes and his team members — who left Britain in December — have already dubbed their quest, ‘The Coldest Journey’.
But this trek is not merely another notch in Fiennes’ belt (which, presumably, is comprised entirely of notches). Ironically, the expedition team hopes ‘The Coldest Journey’ will draw attention to global warming — namely, the effect that climate change has wrought upon the polar ice cap. Fiennes additionally intends to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing, a charity organization that assists the blind.
Even for an experienced adventurer like Fiennes, ‘The Coldest Journey’ is a dangerous endeavor. In addition to the cold, the team must eventually traverse the Antarctic Plateau, where the elevation reaches as high as 3,800 meters/12,470 feet. At these levels, the lack of oxygen is potentially life-threatening. The team will also be hauling enough supplies to sustain each man for up to one year if they are unable to complete the journey; the load includes 7,300 tea bags, 4,400 soup packets and more than 500 pounds of chocolate.
‘The Coldest Journey’ is a daunting escapade for which few men on Earth would be physically or mentally fit, but Fiennes — who once amputated five of his fingers with an electric drill after a bout with frostbite — seems up to the challenge. However, he was pragmatic when CNN asked him about the inherent risks involved with his latest undertaking. ”All the expeditions we’ve done in 40 years if something had gone wrong in a nasty place, you can press a beacon. A ski plane can come in,” he said. “This is the first time that if we run into problems like that, there is no help, because in Antarctica in winter all the rescue facilities shut off.”
But he added: ”I don’t think about not coming back, because I mean, more people get killed on the roads here [London] than they do in Antarctica. I mean, I had a massive heart attack reading a magazine on an airplane. You don’t need to go to Antarctica to pop it.”
Who’s going to argue with that?
By Brad Nehring