Magazine article Geographical

Natalie Hoare in Conversation with ... Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Magazine article Geographical

Natalie Hoare in Conversation with ... Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Article excerpt

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 62, the first man to reach both North and South poles by land, is to climb the 3,970-metre Eiger Mountain in the Swiss Alps in March to raise 1.5million [pounds sterling] for the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme. Despite suffering from vertigo and a heart condition and missing all of the fingers down to the half-knuckle on his left hand, he aims to reach the summit in no more than seven days

Why did you decide to climb the Eiger?

Well, in around 2002, polar expeditions came pretty much to a situation where various groups or individuals, including my own group, had knocked off the big geographical and physical challenges at both ends of the world. So my group, in particular Mike Stroud and myself, moved on to other physical challenges, one of which, in 2003, was to try to run a marathon on every continent in seven days. On that particular challenge, we were due to leave on 31 October 2003, but in June I had a massive heart attack and double bypass and was in a coma for three days. When I awoke, I rang up Mike to put it off for a year, but our sponsors couldn't, because it had been very complicated to organise--we had to do it that year. So I had three and a half months of learning how to walk again, then how to walk uphill, then, a month later, how to start jogging with a big raw scar and wires tying my ribs back together--but we did it. Then, in early 2005, Sibusiso Villane from Swaziland (the first black man to climb Mount Everest by the south side) asked me if I would climb Everest with him to raise 2million [pounds sterling] for Great Ormond Street. Another reason I went was to confront my fear of heights as I had, many years before, rid myself of a similar fear of spiders--when I was in the Arab army because of forced confrontation with them over a three year period, and I thought that Everest would do it. But it didn't. Everest is just a long trudge and you're on a fixed rope all of the time there's no climbing [on the route they took] and no heights; it's just big snowy slopes down below. So I'd heard that the north face of the Eiger is fairly vertiginous and chose that.

Isn't the north face route one of the most dangerous routes up the Eiger?

Well, it's prone to rockfall, particularly since things started warming up in the world. I met a British climber--one of the top six mountaineers in the UK--called Kenton Cool, and when I asked him, he said that he would only accompany me if J trained over the intervening year. And so, during January last year, r started being trained in the Alps, doing five days a month with him and one day a month on rock in Bristol.

How's it going--are you feeling confident?

Sometimes I do, but I fall off a lot. …

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