Sir Ranulph Fiennes has spent more than 50 years challenging his aversions, starting as a schoolboy with his furtive night climb of Eton’s School Hall to becoming the oldest Briton to stand on the summit of Mount Everest, not to omit the many years spent plodding unsupported across the polar ice caps.
His latest book encompasses a lifetime of adventures in cold and altitudinous places, enhanced with tales of the great explorers who went before him, people such as Scott, Shackleton and Peary. Cold is peppered with comments not likely to appear as customer endorsements on any travel agent brochure: ‘The next four hours were an unforgettable hell’, ‘After six hours of drenching in ice-cold water, our eyes were inflamed and our fingers ached with the cold’, ‘My bottom lip was now like raw blubber’, and so on.
In his years spent in the polar regions, Fiennes has grown more disposed to freezing environments. One might say that he has ‘warmed’ to extreme cold, provided it isn’t vertical. His exploits have also raised £16million for charity.
So, no more Himalayan giants in the diary, although we learn that this month, he’ll be travelling to the Antarctic to help retrieve equipment left by the Coldest Journey expedition, the first attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter, which Fiennes had to drop out of due to severe frostbite.
And after that, with Fiennes pushing 70, will he finally hang up his boots? ‘Definitely not.’
COLD: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth by Ranulph Fiennes, Simon & Schuster, £20