AN Army explorer who became the first man to cross Antarctica's Forbidden Plateau arrived home to a familiar sight last night - more snow.

Sergeant Steve Ayers, 32, of Darlington, was part of a six-strong team which crossed the plateau, battling gale force winds and temperatures as low as -22C.

Team leader Major Richard Pattison, 43, of Basildon, Essex, said the team all had ''pretty lucky escapes'' during the 70-mile trek, which took two months.

The plateau was the last uncrossed section of the Antarctic Peninsula.

As well as crossing the plateau, named by British explorer Sir Wally Herbert in 1957, they also became the first to climb Mount Walker, at 8,500ft the highest peak on the peninsula.

Sergeant Ayers said a ''basic survival'' instinct had pulled him through.

Sgt Ayers, who serves with the Defence School of Ammunition, said: ''You realise that six individuals pale into insignificance when you see the magnificence of the place. You just can't describe it."

His wife Georgina, 27, said she was glad he was home and that she saw the risk as part of his job.

"He's been there before and knew what he was letting himself in for," she said.