In the second of our two-part feature on Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer and adventurer talks about plans for a new expedition, how to train in your 60s and why he’d never go into space.
After Everest and the Eiger I decided I would never do any more vertical stuff. Last year I got back in correspondence with Dr Mike Stroud [Fiennes' partner on previous polar expeditions]. He had been in charge of a huge scientific project on Everest in recent years and we agreed to return to horizontal trips together.
So we are planning another expedition. But we have a big problem – which he and I have run into several times over the past 30 years. If we say what we plan to do at the stage where we’re trying to get a sponsor (which could be three million quid – difficult to get even without a recession) and then that article is read by people from a certain country called Norway, by the time we get the money and reach our destination, we find the Norwegians have got their first.
There comes a stage when the company sponsoring you thinks the amount you need is too big for the PR return so then they need an extra motivation. But in Norway, certain companies add patriotism to commercialism. We then end up without the money and the Norwegians get it. So I can’t say what we’re planning. But suffice it to say we have a spy network the same as they do and we wouldn’t be wasting our time on this next one if it had been done before.
Prince Charles is patron of our next expedition and has been our patron of my expeditions for 39 years. If you really can’t get something, you can go to him and he’ll work out a way of helping through international friends or contacts of his but obviously this doesn’t always work.
A long time ago I was asked by an American / Soviet project to go into space with them. But it meant that I’d be in Moscow training for two years and even then we may not be chosen – there were no guarantees. So I said no. The thought of being stuck in Moscow for two years and then not going to space didn’t really appeal. Going down to the very bottom of the sea? I might, providing it wasn’t a health risk.
Raising money is the difficult part. Today we’ve had three emails already asking for the magic answer to the question ‘how do you raise money’. Mike and I have now spent two years trying to get money for this next one without success. The truth is there isn’t an answer. It took seven years of unpaid hard work, receiving negative answers, to mount the Transglobe expedition in the ’70s. During that time we worked in pubs to make a living just to get the support to do that journey which took us 52,000 miles around the surface of earth, through both poles. We never flew one metre. No human had ever been around earth on its polar axis. Only two people have been around it and Charlie [Burton] is sadly dead. More people have been to the moon than have been around the earth under human power.
In terms of training for these things, when you get to my age things start going wrong which is very unfortunate. And you have to do much more exercise than you used to do to keep going, which is very boring. I exercise wherever I happen to be. Tomorrow I’m in Manchester, next week Geneva. I always take my trainers. Whether it’s a golf course or a gym, I have to keep those limbs moving and do strength exercises – which I never had to do in my 40s. I also do competitive stuff like the High Peak Marathon – 12 hours over the peaks. I’m probably the slowest of the team so it’s quite demanding. It becomes increasingly difficult but I can still just about manage it.