Talking to Sir Ranulph Fiennes
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image credit - John Cleare
The epitome of an intrepid traveller and officially the Guinness Book of Records’, Greatest Living Explorer; The Guide 2 Surrey had the privilege of catching up with the great Sir Ranulph Fiennes ahead of his talk at Guildford’s G Live this month.
You come to G Live this June to talk about your life’s journey? Can you remember anything telling from your childhood that would suggest that your life would be full of the adventures that you have had?
When I was a baby, not quite a year old, I got taken to South Africa for twelve years. My dad had just been killed four months before I was born - whether that has any psychological affect or not I don’t know (not being very philosophical or introverted). When I went over there I went to four different schools. I can remember that there was a Jan van Riebeeck Festival, which was a centenary thing (Riebeeck discovered Cape Town), a huge festival. Mum couldn’t go so told her Scottish neighbour/friend to take me, I think I was 6 or 7 years old.
When I got there one of the highlights were these things called rickshaws – towed by 6’6 Zulus with feathers in their hair which made them 7’6 - bones sticking out of their ears and all that. Isabelle (the Scottish neighbour) said “Bae”, because that’s what I was called in those days, “you must go in a rickshaw, this is a once only experience”. I took one look at him and screamed, ran and hid. She later said to my Mum, “you are going to have to look after this son of yours – he is a right wimp!” I remember that story very well indeed, I don’t think I reacted purposefully against wimpishness, but I certainly do remember it.
The Global Reach Challenge that you are carrying out to raise money for Marie Curie will ultimately see you become the first man to have crossed both polar ice caps and to climb the highest mountain on every continent…
I’m three peaks off it, having failed on one just a couple of weeks ago in Australasia, Papua New Guinea, due to a chest pain in the same area that I had an angina attack on Everest in 2005. I had a double bypass in Bristol back in 2003, so I had to go back to there and to the surgeon who operated on me all those years ago. I had all those tests with wires up my arm etc. and last week I had the all clear. The doctor who was with me (Mike Stroud), who has looked after me on and off on expeditions for over 30 years, said that it would be stupid to carry on without an ECG.
So we had to helicopter out of Papua New Guinea and back to Bristol. So that expedition needs to be attempted again, Alaska has got to be attempted again in North America and Aconagua in South America. Over the last year I’ve done the European one in Russia (Mount Elbrus) which was successful, the one down in Antarctica was successful. I had previously done Everest, but only at the third attempt and of course Kilimanjaro. We have to find sponsorship (for the remaining attempts). Obviously failure means someone else doing it first which is always the risk we have to carry.
Is there anything that remains on your bucket list to explore doesn’t involve circumnavigating various corner of the globe? Gin distiller? Master carpenter? Alligator wrestler?
None of the above. I haven’t ever done underwater stuff and I would like to. I’m in contact with an expedition to do with South Africa and an extremely fast current, quite deep, with new breathing apparatus which has been invented. That may or may not come off depending on whether they get sponsorship.
You are a member of the advanced generation and serve as an inspiration to anybody who might feel like their time is spent, to crack on and get on with it. Is there a super human secret diet that you adhere to or is it simply a case of staying active?
The older you get, particularly after 69, this is just personal, the more you have to waste time keeping fit. I don’t mean waste time, but you know, it’s a bore, but you have to do more of it. So where as in the past I might run for an hour 3 times a week, now I have to run at least 5 times a week for an hour and once for two hours – when I say ‘run’ I mean sort of shuffle, but as fast as I can. And then 20 – 25 minutes of stretching, sit ups and squats in the morning - which I never used to have to do. I got diagnosed with pre-diabetes, so I’ve had to go off my life long addiction of Cadburys chocolate, which is a nuisance.
See Sir Ranulph Fiennes presents Mind Over Matter at Guildford’s G Live on the 27th June. For more information and tickets visit glive.co.uk