Sir Ranulph Fiennes: 'world's greatest living explorer' to visit Norwich
PUBLISHED: 10:56 05 February 2019
Widely regarded as the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes shows no interest in giving up his extraordinary adventures just yet
He has pushed his endurance levels and body to the limit, has conquered countless extreme environments and is considered a pioneer of exploration, yet Sir Ranulph Fiennes reveals there is one most unexpected thing that he still wants to conquer.
Many people might consider him superhuman, but there is one superpower he would love to have.
“My superpower would be to not have extreme vertigo. When I did the north face of the Eiger, I was led by a guy who has done Everest 11 times. He is very clever at teaching his climbers how not to get vertigo temporarily. It’s pretty simple – don’t allow yourself to think below your feet at all. It seems obvious but don’t look down! Last August at home though, the gutters got full of leaves and I was too scared, so I sent my wife up and I held the ladder. The north face of the Eiger has killed off 80 people and I could only do it because of that guy.”
This month, Sir Ranulph comes to Norwich Theatre Royal where he will share stories of his pioneering expeditions and what it is like to live and survive in some of the most inhospitable places on earth.
Born in the UK in 1944, just after his father was killed in the war, he grew up in South Africa and the show will also revisit his childhood and his military career, which very much inspired his love of exploring.
“I’ll be talking about my training with the SAS, and being chucked out of the SAS, my very first posting with the British Army, and being the youngest captain in the British Army, even though I didn’t deserve it,” he says.
“I’ll also touch upon some of my favourite expeditions, one of which was finding an Arab city with my first wife Ginny that we had spent 26 years looking for, and how, in the first year after we got married, we did our first journey together which was a 2,000-mile-long boat trip down one of the toughest rivers in the world in a rubber dinghy.”
He married Ginny, his childhood sweetheart, in 1970, and they remained together, exploring the world and launching a series of record breaking expeditions, until her death in 2004.
He has reached both Poles, has climbed several of the world’s highest mountains and has circumnavigated the world along its polar axis – a three year, 52,000 mile odyssey. In 2003, only three and a half months after suffering a massive heart attack which left him in a coma and needing double bypass surgery, he completed seven marathons in seven consecutive days on all seven continents. He was also the oldest Briton to complete the gruelling Marathon des Sables.
Yet, despite achieving so much, there is still more he would like to achieve – including completing the Global Reach Challenge to cross both polar ice caps and climbed the highest mountain on every continent, in aid of Marie Curie, a cause close to his heart and for which he has already raised millions.
“At the moment, I still hold the world record for being the only person to have crossed the whole of that Antarctica ice cap, the whole of the northern ice cap and to climb the highest mountain. There are only three of them out of seven I haven’t done, so it’s very annoying.
“Everest is the most difficult. I’ve done that and if, when I’d done Everest, I had done the minor ones that would have been no problem as it was 2009 and I was in my 60s and quite fit. But when you’re a bit older, things start to go wrong. Your circulation heads towards your core so if you have ever got frost bite before, you are even more likely to get it again. The mountains that you can actually climb when you are in your 70s have to be much lower than the ones you could have climbed before.”
He is by his own admission, extremely competitive, something which he says is not a good trait. “When I was first asked to climb Everest, I said no because of my extreme vertigo. Then six months later my wife died and I just wanted to do something, anything, to distract me.”
He did months of training, but just 300 metres from the top he got chest pains and feared for his heart and was forced to return to base camp.
“I told the doctor when I got down to base camp that I was never trying it again but he told me that if you go up the other side, from Nepal, it’s dead easy.”
So four years later, he tried again, but again, he came just short of the top.
“The next year, 2009, by which time I was an OAP, I worked out why I had failed twice: I was being too competitive. The next time I tried, I went with a Sherpa who was so fit, there was no point in trying to be competitive. I went very slowly that time,” he says.
He has just written a book about Captain Scott and he says there are many myths which need debunking about his extraordinary life.
“One of the people I admire the most is the polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott.
The book tries to get to the truth of his wonderful career as there are a lot of lies and rumours about him. He first discovered that Antarctica was a continent but he had bad luck with the weather on his expeditions, and died in his tent.”
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, February 19 at 7.30pm. Box office 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk