Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ranulph Fiennes - Personification of the notion that nothing is impossible


Since the 1960s Fiennes has been an adventurer. He led expeditions up the White Nile on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbreen Glacier in 1970. Perhaps his most famous trek was the Transglobe Expedition he undertook from 1979 until 1982. Fiennes and two fellow members of 21 SAS, Oliver Shepard and Charles Burton, journeyed around the world on its polar axis using surface transport only. Nobody else has ever done so by any route before or since. As part of the Transglobe Expedition Ran and Charlie Burton completed the Northwest Passage. They left Tuktoyaktuk on 26th July 1981, in the 18 ft open Boston Whaler and reached Tanquary Fjord on 31st August 1981. Their journey was the first open boat transit from West to East and covered around 3,000 miles (2,600 nautical miles or 4,800 kms) taking a route through Dolphin and Union Strait following the South coast of Victoria and King William Islands, North to Resolute Bay via Franklin Strait and Peel Sound, around the South and East coasts of Devon Island, through Hell Gate and across Norwegian Bay to Eureka, Greely Bay and the head of Tanquary Fijord. It is also worth pointing out that, once they reached Tanquary Fijord, they had to trek 150 miles via Lake Hazen to Alert before setting up their winter base camp.

In 1992 Fiennes led an expedition that discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman. The following year he joined nutrition specialist Dr Mike Stroud to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent unsupported, they took 93 days. A further attempt in 1996 to walk to the South Pole solo, in aid of Breast Cancer charity, was unsuccessful due to a kidney stone attack and he had to be rescued from the operation by his crew.

In 2000, he attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole. The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and Fiennes was forced to pull them out by hand. He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of all the fingers on his left hand, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months (to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue) before amputation. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes attempted to remove them himself (in his garden shed) with a hacksaw; this didn't work so he picked up a Black & Decker with a micro blade in the "village" and cut them off just above where the blood and the soreness was.

Despite suffering from a heart attack and undergoing a double heart bypass operation just four months before, Fiennes joined Stroud again in 2003 to carry out the extraordinary feat of completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge for the British Heart Foundation. "In retrospect I wouldn't have done it. I wouldn't do it again. It was Mike Stroud's idea".

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