Sir Ranulph Fiennes said today that he was “frustrated” at being forced to pull out of an expedition across Antarctica because of frostbite.
The 68-year-old was injured in a fall while skiing during training at a base camp in Antarctica and developed frostbite after taking off his outer gloves to fix a ski binding in temperatures of around minus 33C (minus 27.4F).
It has forced Sir Ranulph to quit the Coldest Journey expedition which has been five years in the planning, but he will continue to support the project through fundraising.
After flying back to the UK this morning, the explorer told a press conference at a hotel at Heathrow Airport: “I’m on pills at the moment.
“The vascular surgeon I saw yesterday said that, in his opinion – he wasn’t sure – two of the fingers definitely would not require surgery and two of the fingers might require surgery.”
Although Sir Ranulph has had to give up the challenge, his team-mates will continue with the 2,000-mile (3,219km) trek, which they are expected to embark on later this month.
Sir Ranulph went on: “You could not put a better team together than that lot.
“I’m very pleased with and proud of the team in charge of the crossing.
“Everything is going totally on schedule as of today.”
Sir Ranulph had a double heart bypass in 2003 and suffered a heart attack two years later as he came agonisingly close to the summit of Everest.
He finally reached the top in 2009 on his third attempt, becoming the oldest Briton to do so at 65 years of age.
Hailed as the last great polar challenge, the journey across the Antarctic has never been attempted during the winter.
The team will experience some of the toughest conditions on earth – near permanent darkness and temperatures as low as minus 90C (minus 130F) during their six-month journey.
Sir Ranulph would have been the oldest explorer to attempt the crossing.
Raising his left hand, which is heavily bandaged, he joked: “There are gory pictures of it from my doctor last week.”
Describing how he felt at having to pull out, he went on: “It is extremely frustrating. I started working on this expedition five years ago.
“I’ve been working on it and nothing else full time and unpaid for five years so it is definitely frustrating but unavoidable and I will make the best of it by putting my focus full time on to making my focus entirely on the expedition team.”
He said the main aim of the expedition was to carry out the first crossing of Antarctica in winter, which starts on March 20, the day the team is now expected to set off.
Sir Ranulph said another part of the challenge was to have somebody carry out the journey on skis, a role which he had planned on performing.