Daredevil Bear Grylls has revealed the derring-do adventures that have shaped his life – including his closest brush with death.
Here are some extracts from next month’s Lonely Planet magazine where the fearless adventurer opens up about his most epic missions, which have taken him from the highs of Mount Everest to Oman’s barren desert.
Way up in a far corner of India, squeezed in tight between Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the state of Sikkim. It catches the eastern rise of the Himalaya and is full of some of the most extravagant natural beauty you’ll ever witness. And, in 1992, it changed my life forever.
Daredevil: In this photo, taken in 2007, Bear is seen paramotoring over Everest under cloudless blue skies
Bear seen celebrating with his best friend Gilo Cardozo after their quirky paramotoring flight above Everest. The thrill-seeker said: ‘This photo is special to me. It marked the end of a high-risk endeavour that could so easily have gone wrong. Gilo was the true hero, having designed and built the most powerful paramotor to that date’
Bear tests out a powered paraglider in a wind tunnel before the Everest flight. He explained: ‘Mira is a vehicle-testing facility where it’s possible to get blasted by very strong winds at low temperatures. We were so exhausted by the end, we had to be helped from our rigs’
Sikkim was closed to tourists and travellers at the time, but a contact in the Indian Army worked his magic and granted a friend and me unprecedented access.
Our only guide was a battered old Lonely Planet book, and we spent many weeks having the best offbeat adventure that any 19-year-old could wish for.
We rode on train roofs, swam in glacial lakes, and stood and stared in silence outside hilltop Buddhist monasteries.
Of all the experiences on that trip, there were two that transformed me completely.
First was meeting the local people. Their warmth and welcome left lasting impressions on me.
As we shuffled into one village after another, the people of Sikkim demonstrated vital lessons that I’ve held onto ever since: they gave without asking, they never judged and they offered strangers like us the very best of their kindness.
The survivalist pictured skydiving in June 1996 with buddies in Africa before he had a major accident. He says of the image: ‘This photo tells a story of innocence where I felt I was invincible – note no goggles or helmet. We always jumped with little concern for our own safety in those days. I broke my back in three places when the canopy malfunctioned, and I spent many months in military rehabilitation back in the UK. The accident changed my life’
Bear pictured in October 2004 climbing in Oman on a trip with his wife Shara before they had their three boys. The adventurer mused: ‘This was taken in a remote wadi, and was a special time – just her and me’
Bear says that this photo shows the first thing he ever did on TV. He explained: ‘It was a pilot three minute taster shoot for Channel 4 and Discovery Channel. They asked for any ideas to shoot something around survival, and I suggested jumping into a frozen lake. We had no safety, and zero idea what we were doing in terms of TV. On the back of this taster, Man vs. Wild was born’
Those kindnesses have stayed with me ever since. They’ve shaped everything from how I approach my adventures to the sort of people I choose to work with.
Kindness is about a lot more than courtesy: it’s about valuing people and seeing their worth, no matter how different they appear.
And then there was the time that I headed off for a high-mountain adventure on my own. I made my way northwest, into the foothills of the lower Himalaya.
I had none of the right gear with me, and was woefully ill-prepared and under-equipped in every way. But it felt like something was drawing me in.
I kept climbing and hiking higher and higher every day. When dawn broke one morning and I found myself staring across the distant horizon at Mount Everest, I knew that one day I would attempt to climb the peak.
Of course, travel isn’t always perfect. And it shouldn’t be.
Pictured is the adventurer arriving at the Thames after circumnavigating the UK on jet skis in July 2000. He said: ‘This expedition was to raise money for the RNLI, and it was one of my first expeditions after climbing Everest. The first 50 miles were flat seas and fine, but three and a half weeks later, after having made it through some epic seas off Scotland and Ireland, we had forearms like Popeye!’
This image shows Bear aiming for the coast of Greenland in a rib. He said: ‘As leader of this Arctic expedition, I believed that we’d used too much fuel because of the storms we had hit, and so were never going make it there. In the end we did, but literally on vapour. It’s an expedition I’m very grateful we survived, and am, to his day, so proud of the enduring friendships made’
Brave: Another photo from the expedition to Greenland in a rib that nearly landed him in troubled waters
I have, on occasions, got horribly lost and, over the years, have come far too close to death and not making it home.
And then there are the bouts of diarrhoea and malaria, sometimes so crippling that I thought I’d never stand again.
But I’ve found that the tough moments of any adventure are often just as pivotal as the spectacular ones. When they’re all over, they’re often the times we laugh hardest about.
Experience has now taught me to prepare well. One of my favourite parts of my job is being Chief Scout, and I love that at the heart of the Scouts is this life-changing wisdom: ‘Be Prepared’. It is a genius motto.
It is so much easier, nowadays, to prepare: we can carefully carry out our research before we even leave home, and prepare effective communications and good medical packs (all packed in waterproof bags, of course).
All these preparations help to keep us safe, although sometimes the best safety tips don’t require anything beyond old-fashioned common sense, such as letting people know where you’re going, how you’re planning on getting around and when you’re due to arrive.
Adventurous spirit: Bear, above, has carved out a career as a TV survivalist after working for many years as a SAS soldier
Bear pictured during his travels through Morocco and the North African desert in October 2002. He said: ‘It is worth befriending the locals. I was posted there a couple of times during my military service, and camels were a regular part of the scenery’
This picture shows Bear packing away a paraglider in the Venezuelan jungle before a failed attempt to fly over Angel Falls. He said: ‘We were woefully unprepared for this trip, as new paraglider pilots who underestimated the intense humidity, heat and downpours’
Then, if there is ever an issue or you are injured, you know someone will soon be aware that something is wrong.
Safety matters. We want our life to be a series of epic adventures, rather than just one! But we mustn’t let caution kill adventure. Like so much in life, it’s all a balance.
Some people say there’s nowhere left to explore. They say that we’ve already mapped and studied it all, so why bother?
But travel is about so much more than maps, or ticking off a series of locations, or bragging about stamps in a passport. We travel because it betters us, it broadens and enriches us. And ultimately, it unites us.
The best-travelled people I know are almost always the most tolerant. When we are exposed to all the things that make us different, we see more of what unites us.
I’ve had so many different adventures over the years, in all different parts of the world. But if there’s one thing they have in common, it’s this: whenever we step off the beaten path and go beyond the normal, things get interesting.
When we’re prepared to risk entering into the unknown, we open ourselves to the experiences and people that so often shape our futures.
And that’s where real wealth in life is found.
Bear said of this image: ‘This was taken in northern Canada – we were trying to find a route through and across a glacier. In those times we tended to just gun it and go! But they made me so grateful for our Man vs. Wild crew, which remained the same for several years’
Bear said of this snap: ‘Travel with the family is often the best adventure we can have. This is with [my wife] Shara, travelling in New Zealand just after we were married. There is something so powerful about being surrounded by nature with those you love’
Bear has guest edited the 10th anniversary issue of Lonely Planet, which is available from February 28
The 10th anniversary issue of Lonely Planet magazine, guest-edited by Bear Grylls, is available from February 28.
Exclusive MailOnline offer, valid until May 2: Try 5 issues for £5. After your first five issues you’ll pay £20 every six issues – still saving 26 per cent on the shop price. Visit buysubscriptions.com/LPMAIL19