Named by the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”, Sir Ranulph Fiennes is to embark on a live tour across the UK, coming to Alexandra Palace on Tuesday, February 25.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Living Dangerously offers a personal journey through the legendary explorer’s life, from his early years to the present day, showcasing his pursuit of extreme adventure.
Amongst his many record-breaking achievements, writer and poet Sir Ranulph was the first to reach both Poles, the first to cross the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean, and the first to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis.
Here, we talk to Sir Ranulph about what audiences can expect from the tour.
You’re heading out on tour, what will you be talking about?
I’ll be talking about my life, my childhood and schooling, and training with the SAS (and being chucked out of the SAS!). I’ll be talking about my very first posting with the British Army, and being the youngest captain in the British Army – even though I didn’t deserve it – and how that inspired my love of exploring. 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 spent 26 years looking for, and how, in the first year after we got married, we did our first journey together: a 2,000 mile long boat trip down one of the toughest rivers in the world, in a rubber dinghy. There’s so much to talk about that I can only briefly touch on being the oldest Brit up Everest and the oldest pensioner in Great Britain to go up the north face of the Eiger!
You have achieved a great deal, are there any expeditions/challenges you would still like to conquer?
There is one thing that I wish I had tried doing earlier. At the moment, I still hold the World Record of 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. It’s called the Global Reach Challenge and I’m the only person to ever have done it. The record I would like to have broken is to cross all the ice caps and climb all seven of the highest mountains. 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. 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 gotten frostbite before, you are even more likely to get it again. There are only three of them out of seven I haven’t done, so it’s very annoying.
So you are quite competitive?
I am, and it’s 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 to distract me. So I did months and months of training and then I got a heart attack when I was 300 meters from the top. 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, it’s dead easy! Four years after that, 2008, I did that and nearly got to the top, but the body of my Sherpa’s father appeared in the snow, as he had died trying to climb Everest. The next year, 2009, I had 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.
What do you do to relax?
To relax, I sleep! And listen to the music of Enya. In between my lectures I run around the Serpentine a couple of times. I don’t call it jogging though – it’s more ‘shuffling’.
In many people’s minds you are already superhuman – if you could choose a superpower what would it be?
My superpower would be to not have extreme vertigo! When I was in Dubai recently, they wanted me to go on the World’s Highest Zip Wire and break the record of going 160 mph, and I said yes because I didn’t want to be unpopular with the client. I opened my eyes as we left the platform, but I then kept them shut for the rest of the ride!
With the threat of climate change more apparent than ever, what would you urge the younger generation to change?
Sorting out the plastic in the ocean is a good start. Everyone can do something about that, whereas something complicated like tackling carbon monoxide is more difficult to get the public interested in. If the whole of the motor industry had to switch to electric vehicles that would be good – then we would be heading in the right direction.
What is your next adventure?
Ah! The trouble with this question is that the enemy are constantly listening to what we are planning. If it’s a first, you don’t want to let anyone know, so unfortunately, I can’t divulge as to what I am doing next. You’ll just have to wait and see…
Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY, Tuesday, February 25, 7.30pm. Details: 020 8365 2121 alexandrapalace.com