Sir Ranulph Fiennes reveals biggest fear ahead of Norwich show

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Credit: Archant

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, named by the Guinness Booked of Records as 'the world's greatest living explorer', reveals what frightens him and why he won't be hanging up his hiking boots anytime soon.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Credit: Archant

The 75-year-old has spent his live in pursuit of extreme adventure, from scaling buildings at boarding school to cutting his fingers off with a fretsaw after sustaining frostbite on a solo expedition to the North Pole.

After leaving the army, where he spent time in the SAS, he has spent the rest of his adult life breaking records including being the fist to cross the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean, the first to reach both poles and circumnavigating the world on its polar axis.

Ahead of his latest tour Living Dangerously heading to Norwich Theatre Royal in February, Sir Ranulph reveals his highs and lows from a life spent exploring the world.

What can people expect from the tour?

I will be talking about a lifetime spent breaking records against international competition with challenges of a physical and geographical nature in hot and cold conditions.

There will also be a Q&A at the end and the audience can send questions on Twitter during the show.

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Have you always been adventurous – what were you like as a youngster?

I get vertigo so I started climbing at night with an older boy (at school) and we would climb up drainpipes - the Victorian ones were best as long as you had wet socks on your feet and hands.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Credit: Liz Scarff

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Credit: Liz Scarff - Credit: Archant

But unfortunately, one night we were climbing up the school hall and as he climbed up it started cracking and the staff came out and surrounded him with torches.

I escaped back to my boarding house looking angelic but he was told to leave at the end of that term.

When Bear Grylls was there he also climbed the school hall and saw the name Fiennes scratched on to it and he said at the top there was barbed wire.

All I can say is if there was barbed wire we would have got up quicker.

Why did you join the army and what does it take to be an SAS soldier?

I decided to join the army as I was brought up the first 12 years of my life in South Africa on stories of my dad who was killed in the Second World War.

I wanted to be like him as he commanded the Royal Scots Greys regiment during the most influential battle in north Africa at El Alamein which turned the beginning of the war in our favour.

To be an SAS soldier you have to be very fit and good at navigation and mentally you have to be alert and observant so that if you get ambushed you know where the nearest bush is without thinking.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Credit: Archant

Why did you decide to become an explorer?

I left the tank regiment in the army to become an SAS soldier, then left that after I went to court for blowing up civilian property with army explosives [Fiennes and a colleague used explosives to blow up a concrete dam built for the set of 1967 film Doctor Dolittle in environmental protest] so went back the tank regiment and then left again to join the Arab army fighting Marxists.

I was thrown out after eight years as you could only do a short service if you haven't got A Levels.

I immediately got married and the two of us started doing expeditions to make a living.

For one expedition, me and Ginny [Ranulph's first wife who passed away in 2004] spent seven years getting it ready and it was the first journey around the earth vertically.

We started at the Thames, went south over Antarctica, up the other side of the world through the north west passage, over the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole and back to the UK.

It took three and a half years and we did not fly one metre of the 52,000 mile trip and no one has done it before or since.

What has been your scariest moment and does anything frighten you?

On that expedition we didn't move more than eight miles an hour for the three years and when we finally got back to Greenwich someone had brought my wife's black mini van to the dock and she grabbed me and we got in the car.

She drove it around Hyde Park and it was scariest thing that has ever happened to me.

In 2000, you sawed off your own fingertips after a fall on a solo expedition to the North Pole, did this make you want to stop exploring?

No, it meant I had to take more care when it came to climbing mountains and it just made me slower.

It made me realise I should always travel with someone as otherwise you have no one to rescue you.

Who is your biggest inspiration and what keeps you going when the times get tough?

My dad and grandad, who did amazing things in the Boer War, and when I want to give up I imagine they are ashamed and watching me.

An Evening with Sir Ranulph Fiennes comes to Norwich Theatre Royal on February 19 at 7.30pm and you can purchase tickets (£28.50) at the box office, online on or by phone on 01603 630000.