A life truly lived: Sir Ranulph Fiennes




How many chances will you have in your lifetime to not only hear death-defying stories of ground-breaking expeditions which redefined what humanity is capable of, but to hear them from the lips of the very person who has lived to tell the tale?


Come to the Adventure Travel Show and let explorer, survivor and utterly captivating storyteller Sir Ranulph Fiennes carry you away with tales of his formidable feats.

Fiennes is the only man alive ever to have travelled around the Earth’s circumpolar surface. He has lead over 30 expeditions which include travel by riverboat, hovercraft, manhaul sledge, skidoo, Land Rover and ski. Now in his seventh decade he shows no sign of slowing down, successfully completing a 156km ultramarathon through the Sahara desert aged 71.

Known as Ran to his friends, this indomitable adventurer was the first to reach both Poles, first to cross the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans, and first to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis – achievements he gained on the Transglobe Expedition alongside fellow former soldier Charles Burton, whom Fiennes met in a pub in Chelsea in 1975.

Ran has climbed the north face of the Eiger and is the oldest Briton to conquer Mount Everest, making it to the summit on his third attempt aged 65. After achieving the 29,035ft climb the uncommonly fit pensioner joked, “It is amazing where you can get with a bus pass these days.”

Perhaps he found the ascent easy in comparison to the seven marathons he ran in seven consecutive days on all seven continents of the world in 2003, less than four months after undergoing triple bypass surgery following a heart attack which left him in a 3-day coma, and only four years after ending a life-long cigarette smoking habit.

Physical prowess is one thing but the mental strength, determination and acuity – not to mention the technical skillset – needed to do what Ran has done is quite unimaginable to the average Joe or Jane.  However an indication of the man’s mettle may be inferred from the fact that he cut off the frostbitten fingers on his left hand himself with a fretsaw blade rather than wait months for the £6,000 amputation surgery offered to him. He did this over a period of five days.

Impressive as it is, Sir Ranulph’s expeditionary success is not a standalone achievement, because the father of one has helped to fundraise over £14 million for UK charities through his endeavours. In addition, this man – who excelled at sports but not much else when in school (where he was bullied), and who failed all his A-level exams – has written 24 books, and has lived enough in his lifetime to write 24 more.

On the North Face of the Eiger (Photo: Ian Parnell)

Before he became an explorer Ran was a soldier in the SAS and in the ‘60s he fought against communists for the Sultan of Oman. And, aged just 22 Ran narrowly avoided prison after being hauled before the court for using his explosives training to blow up a dam.

The unsightly barrier had been built at Castle Combe, Wilts., by Twentieth Century Fox as part of the set for the film Doctor Dolittle, and had proved unpopular with residents. Fiennes escaped with a £500 fine.

A lack of desire to hear what such a man has to say would be as strange and fantastic as the man himself.


Sir Ranulph Fiennes is speaking at The Adventure Travel Show at 12pm on Saturday 20th January.



Words: Sarah Glayzer