Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 17:26 UK

Fiennes climbs to Everest summit

Ranulph Fiennes and Sherpa Lhakpa Thundu on Mount Everest
Pleased but feeling "dreadful": Sir Ranulph (right) and Sherpa Lhakpa Thundu pose on the summit of Mount Everest.

Veteran British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has reached the summit of Mount Everest, succeeding after two previous attempts ended in failure.

He is the first man to cross both the polar ice-caps and climb 8,850 metres (29,035ft) to the world's highest peak.

Sir Ranulph, 65, who had kept this latest attempt at climbing the mountain low key, said from the top he was pleased but "felt dreadful".

"This is the closest you can get to the moon by walking."

The explorer began his latest attempt at climbing Everest three weeks ago.

He becomes the oldest Briton and the first British pensioner to scale the world's highest mountain.

The adventurer told the BBC: "We came to the summit as dawn broke. It was very, very cold."

He said he had been narrowly beaten by a group of 12 Indian army soldiers to the summit but that there was a "lot of chatter" once they arrived.

Sir Ranulph turned back from the summit on his first attempt in 2005 after having a heart attack.

Exhaustion forced him to turn back when he tried to climb it again last year.

His efforts this time are raising money for the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity - his wife, mother and sister all died from the disease within 18 months.

The BBC's Andrew North joined Sir Ranulph during the first two days of the climb and said it was obvious that a "bull-headed determination" drove him on.

EVEREST FACTS AND FIGURES
Height: 8,848 - 8,850m (29,029 - 29,035 feet)
First ascent: 29 May, 1953, Edmund Hillary/Tenzing Norgay
Number of ascents up to 1988: less than 200
Number of ascents up to end of 2008 climbing season: 4,109 by 2,700 individuals
Most people on the summit in a single day: 116, on 22 May, 2003
Oldest summiteer: 76-year-old Nepalese man, Min Bahadur Sherchan

The adventurer spoke to our correspondent by radio from the summit.

"He did say he was really pleased to have got there. He also said he felt dreadful, exhausted from the climb and was looking forward to getting down," said Mr North.

"You could tell he was very relieved," he said, adding that the pace of his climb was "remarkably fast" having reached the summit from the highest camp in just nine hours.

During his career Sir Ranulph has led more than 30 expeditions.

The explorer is perhaps best known for a three-year transglobe expedition - the first successful circumnavigation of the world on its polar axis - which was completed in 1982.

He also travelled to the North Pole unaided, along with Dr Mike Stroud, as well as a 97-day trek across Antarctica.

Sir Ranulph had a triple heart bypass in 2003 after suffering from a heart attack.

Only four months later, he and Dr Stroud ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

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SEE ALSO
Sir Ranulph starts Everest climb
27 May 05 |  Somerset
Heart bypass for explorer
08 Jun 03 |  Bristol

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