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Sir Ranulph Fiennes begins Antarctic expedition

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is embarking on a gruelling Antarctic challenge today Photo: Stephen Hird / Reuters

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennhas set off on a gruelling Antarctic challeng, hoping to become the first to cross the continent during the polar winter.

He and his five man team will face temperatures as low as minus 90 C.

Sir Ranulph said: "My late wife was usually the radio operator on my previous expeditions but when I remarried when she died seven years ago, we had a daughter so this will be the first expedition where I'm away from a child and my 18 year old stepson."

The Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre, Antarctica Credit: NASA NASA / Reuters

The journey across the Antarctic has never been attempted before during the polar winter but a Norwegian exploring team recently crossed the Arctic during the summer months.

At 68, Sir Ranulph is the oldest explorer to attempt the crossing.

He said: "In the last moment before certain expeditions there is a feeling like in the old days of not wanting to go back to school.

Adelie penguins walk on the ice at Cape Denison in Antarctica Credit: Reuters Staff / Reuters

"It is my fault for planning and spending four and a half years organising and finding sponsors for this.

"Now it would be stupid to think I wish I wasn't doing it."

In March the Ice Team will begin their 2,000 mile journey across the Antarctic, mostly in complete darkness and in temperatures averaging minus 70 C.

A cliff face at Landsend on the coast of Cape Denison in Antarctica Credit: Staff Photographer / Reuters

Sir Ranulph said: "I'm particularly worried about the welding on the tracks. We are not entirely sure when they are under strain. We'll need to carry a lot of food and fuel for a year for six people."

The expedition aims to raise 10 million US dollars (£6.17 million) for Seeing is Believing, a charity that aims to tackle preventable blindness.