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Explorer Fiennes Forced Out Of Antarctic Trip

Sir Ranulph Fiennes will be evacuated from the Antarctic after suffering severe frostbite, forcing him out of his latest expedition.

The British explorer and his fellow adventurers were training to take part in the Coldest Journey, a six-month trek across the continent due to start next month.

But the 68-year-old developed frostbite after he had an accident while skiing and had to use his bare hands to repair his ski bindings.

Organisers said the decision was made to evacuate Sir Ranulph before the Antarctic winter starts.

"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," a statement said.

But severe weather conditions have halted his evacuation to Cape Town, organisers said.

"This plan is currently being hampered due to a blizzard at their present location which is making the first stage of the evacuation impossible," they said.

"Until there is a let up in the weather conditions, Fiennes will be unable to leave."

Sir Ranulph's finger tips on his left hand were amputated after he sustained severe frostbite during an expedition to the North Pole in 2000.

The Coldest Journey expedition, which will continue without Sir Ranulph, will see the team walk 2,000-miles (3,219km) across Antarctica during the winter - the first time such a feat has been attempted.

The team will endure temperatures as low as -90C.

Organisers say they are in "an excellent position" to start the crossing on the planned date, March 21.

The group will travel on skis, while pulling a crevasse-detection system designed to prevent them plunging into the perilous snow-covered holes that will bedevil the route.

They will be accompanied by two modified tractors that will tow living quarters, supplies, equipment and fuel.

Organisers are hoping it will raise \$10m (£6.2m) for Seeing is Believing , a charity trying to tackle avoidable blindness around the world.

One hundred years ago, polar explorer Captain Scott died after getting caught up in the start of the southern winter after reaching the South Pole.

Sir Ranulph, described by the Guinness Book Of World Records as "the world's greatest living explorer", was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles by land and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot.

In May 2009, at the age of 65, he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the oldest Briton ever to do so.