Ranulph Fiennes: Adventurer, Explorer, Badass Extraordinaire

Pic Courtesy of Ranulph Fiennes

The Guinness Book of World Records describes Fiennes as the ‘World’s Greatest Explorer’ – them’s fightin’ words but they do have a point. Sir Ranulph has broken more world records and traveled to more remote destinations under extraordinary circumstances than any person in the history of adventure travel. Let’s start with a list of his achievements to date:

  • The ONLY person travel around the Earth’s circumpolar surface
  • Raised in South African he joined the SAS in 1965 and became the youngest captain in the British Army where he was awarded the Sultan’s Bravery Medal
  • First to reach both Poles and cross both the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean (with Charles Burton)
  • First to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis (with Charles Burton)
  • In 1992, he crossed the Antarctic with Mike Stroud – the longest polar journey ever
  • In 2003 tragedy struck; a massive heart attack saw a triple bypass and many thought Fiennes’ adventuring days over. He proved them wrong by running the 7x7x7 – seven marathons (Seven!) in seven days on seven continents only 31/2 months later
  • After 60, he climbed Everest (Tibet side), the north face of the Eiger and then Everest again (the Nepal side) just for good measure

Oh and perhaps this is a good time to mention that he is desperately afraid of heights. As if that wasn’t enough, here’s another little tale of his epic badassery.

Raulph Fiennes2

Pic Courtesy of Ranulph Fiennes

On a polar expedition in 2000, the sled with his supplies slipped and he had to remove the glove on his left hand to pull it out, resulting in severe frostbite: “My fingers were ramrod stiff and ivory white. An hour later, with my good hand finally warmed up, I unlaced my wet boot which had been in the water. Two toes had lost their nails, but they had escaped frostbite. I was in no doubt about the fate of my bad hand. I had to get to a hospital quickly.”

Evacuated to Ottawa hospital, it was too late for the tips of all his fingers and half of his thumb. In these cases, the dead tips are left on as protection until the underlying tissue has healed. When Sir Ranulph had had his fill, he simply decided to do the amputations himself: “I took the Black & Decker vice from my tool shed and with the micro saw blade, I cut off the dead finger and thumb ends of my left hand. I did it slowly and carefully. When it bled, or was painful, I moved the saw away from the living flesh to the damaged flesh.”

“Yes, I did have to cut into my own bone, but it was very shriveled – the whole thing was like the flesh of a corpse. I put on a dressing to mop up the blood. I did it for financial reasons. I would have had to pay £6,000 to have it done by a surgeon.”

Most of his expedition are carried out to raise funds for charities and his contributions have been invaluable. His next expedition is the 2015 Marathon des Sables the ‘toughest footrace on earth’ to raise funds for Marie Curie nurses. If he succeeds he’ll be the oldest Briton to complete the grueling ultra-marathon that takes place in the 50°C of the Sahara desert and covers an incredible 156 miles (251km) over just six days. You can make a donation here.

Sir Ranulph has published many books about his expeditions which also contain his breathtaking photographs. You can buy signed copies here. Sir Raulph, we salute you!


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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