Ranulph Fiennes

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Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet OBE (born 7 March 1944), usually known as Ranulph (Ran) Fiennes, is a British adventurer and holder of several endurance records. He was the first man to visit both the north and south poles by surface means and the first man to completely cross Antarctica on foot. According to the Guiness Book of World Records he is the greatest living adventurer.


[edit] Biography

Fiennes was born in England shortly after the death of his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, who was killed in action in the Second World War at Monte Cassino in 1943. Fiennes inherited his father's baronetcy, becoming the 3rd Baronet at his birth. Fiennes is the third cousin of Hollywood film actors Joseph and Ralph Fiennes, and is a distant cousin of Britain's royal family.

After the war his mother moved the family to South Africa where he remained until he was 12. Ranulph then returned to be educated at Eton, after which he joined the British Army.

[edit] Officer

Fiennes served eight years in the British army — in his father's regiment, the Royal Scots Greys — and was later seconded to the Special Air Service, where he specialised in demolitions. He admitted in his autobiography to cheating on the notoriously harsh SAS endurance test known as the Long Drag.

Service life was enlivened by various scrapes and escapades, including an occasion when Fiennes and another officer procured a very lively, squirming piglet, smothered it with tank grease and slipped it into the crowded ballroom of the army's Staff College, Camberley. On another occasion, offended by the construction of an ugly concrete dam built by 20th Century Fox[1] for the production of the film Doctor Dolittle in the Wiltshire village of Castle Combe — reputedly the prettiest village in England — Fiennes planned to demolish the dam. He used explosives which he later claimed to have obtained legitimately from the armoury,[1] but in the event didn't detonate them.[citation needed] Using skills from a recently completed training course on evading search dogs by night, he escaped capture, but he and a guilty colleague were both subsequently traced. After a court case, Fiennes had to pay a hefty fine and he and his co-conspirator were discharged from the SAS. Fiennes was initially posted to another cavalry regiment but was then allowed to return to his regiment.

Becoming disillusioned by his British Army service, in particular his career prospects, he spent the last two years of his service seconded to the army of the Sultan of Oman. At the time, Oman experienced a growing communist insurgency supported from neighbouring South Yemen. Fiennes had a crisis of conscience soon after arriving in Oman, as he became aware of the Sultan's poor government. However he decided that the oppression threatened by a communist takeover, combined with moves towards progressive change within the Sultanate system, justified his part in the conflict. After familiarisation, he commanded the Reconnaissance Platoon of the Muscat Regiment, seeing extensive active service in the Dhofar Rebellion. He led several raids deep into rebel-held territory on the Djebel Dhofar and was decorated for bravery by the Sultanate.

[edit] Adventurer

Since the 1960s Fiennes has been an adventurer. He led expeditions up the White Nile on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbreen Glacier in 1970. Perhaps his most famous trek was the Transglobe Expedition he undertook from 1979 until 1982. Fiennes and two fellow members of 21 SAS Oliver Shepard and Charles Burton journeyed around the world on its polar axis using surface transport only, covering 52,000 miles and becoming the first people to have visited both poles by land.[2]

In 1992 Fiennes led an expedition that discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman. The following year he joined nutrition specialist Dr. Mike Stroud in an attempt to become the first to cross Antarctica unaided. Having crossed the continent in 90 days, they were forced to call for a pick-up on the Ross Ice Shelf, frostbitten and starving, on day 95. A further attempt in 1996 to walk to the South Pole solo, in aid of Breast Cancer charity, unfortunately ended in failure and he had to be rescued from the operation by his crew.

In 2000, he attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole. The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and Fiennes was forced to pull them out by hand. He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of all the fingers on his left hand, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months (to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue) before amputation. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes removed them himself (in his garden shed) with a fretsaw which didn't work so he picked up a Black & Decker in the "village" with a micro blade and cut them off just above where the blood & the soreness was.[1][3]

Despite suffering from a heart attack and undergoing a double heart bypass operation just four months before, Fiennes joined Stroud again in 2003 to carry out the extraordinary feat of completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge for the British Heart Foundation. "In retrospect I wouldn't have done it, I wouldn't do it again, it was Mike Stroud's idea". Their route:

26th October - Race 1: Patagonia, South America
27th October - Race 2: Falkland Islands, "Antarctica"
28th October - Race 3: Sydney, Australia
29th October - Race 4: Singapore, Asia
30th October - Race 5: London, Europe
31st October - Race 6: Cairo, Africa
1st November - Race 7: New York, North America

Originally Fiennes had planned to run the first marathon on King George Island, Antarctica. The second marathon would then have taken place in Santiago, Chile. However, bad weather and aeroplane engine trouble caused him to change his plans, running the South American segment in southern Patagonia first and then hopping to the Falklands as a substitute for the Antarctic leg.

Speaking after the event, Fiennes said the Singapore marathon had been by far the most difficult because of high humidity and pollution. He also said his cardiac surgeon had approved the marathons, providing his heart-rate did not exceed a 130 beats per minute; Fiennes later confessed to having forgotten to pack his heart-rate monitor, and as such does not know how fast his heart was beating.

Fiennes reached 28,500ft in a 2005 attempt to climb Everest. He has joined the Victoria Falls Expedition, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of David Livingstone's discovery of Victoria Falls (this expedition started on 2 November, and originally took David Livingstone four years).

In March 2007, despite a morbid, lifelong fear of heights, Fiennes undertook a personal challenge to climb the Eiger by its much-feared North Face, with sponsorship totalling £1.5 million to be paid to the Marie Curie Cancer Care Delivering Choice Programme.

On 24 May 2008, Fiennes had to abandon an attempt to be the oldest Briton to climb Mount Everest, being forced to turn back from exhaustion after reaching the final stopping point in a climb for charity. The adventurer, who is receiving treatment for prostate cancer, was suffering with heart problems and vertigo, a spokesman reported.

Fiennes continues to compete in UK based endurance events and has seen recent success in the Veteran categories of some Mountain Marathon races. His training nowadays consists of regular two hour runs around Exmoor.

[edit] Author

Fiennes's career as an author has developed alongside that of an explorer. He is the author of 13 books in fiction and non-fiction. In 2003 he published a biography of Captain Robert Scott which attempted to provide a robust defence of Scott's achievements and reputation which had been strongly questioned by biographers such as Roland Huntford. Although others have made comparisons between Fiennes and Scott, Fiennes says he identifies more with Captain Oates, another member of Scott's doomed Antarctic team.

His works include:

[edit] Politician

Fiennes stood for the Countryside Party in the 2004 European elections in the South West England region — fourth on their list of six. The party received only 30,824 votes — insufficient for any of their candidates to be elected.

He is also a member of the libertarian pressure group The Freedom Association.

[edit] Awards and recognition

In 1970, while serving with the Omani Army, Fiennes received the Sultan's Bravery Medal. In 1983 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Loughborough University, and later received the Royal Geographical Society's Founders Medal. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the University of Abertay Dundee.

In 1986 Fiennes was awarded the Polar Medal for outstanding service to British Polar exploration and research.[4]

Fiennes was appointed OBE in 1993 "for human endeavour and for charitable services" — his expeditions have raised £5 million for good causes. In 1994 he was awarded a second clasp to the Polar Medal,[5] having visited both poles.

In a 2007 Top Gear special, the presenters travelled to the Magnetic North Pole in a Toyota Hilux. Sir Ranulph was called in to speak with the presenters after their constant joking and horseplay during their cold weather training. As a former guest on the show who was familiar with their penchant for tomfoolery, Fiennes bluntly informed them of the grave dangers of polar expeditions, showing pictures of his own frostbite injuries and presenting what remained of his left hand. Sir Ranulph was given recognition by having his name placed before every surname in the closing credits: "Sir Ranulph Clarkson, Sir Ranulph Hammond, Sir Ranulph May"....[6]

In late 2008/early 2009 Fiennes took part in a new BBC program called Top Dogs: Adventures in War, Sea and Ice. The program sees Fiennes unite with fellow British legends John Simpson, the BBC World Affairs Editor, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the round-the-world yachtsman. The team go on three trips, each experiencing each others adventure field. The first episode, aired on 27th March 2009, saw Fiennes, Simpson and Knox-Johnston go on a potentially very dangerous news-gathering trip to Afghanistan. The team reported from the legendary Khyber Pass and infamous Tora Bora mountain complex. The three also undertake a voyage around Cape Horn and an expedition hauling sledges across the deep-frozen Frobisher Bay in the far north of Canada.

[edit] Personal life

Fiennes married his childhood (they met when she was 9, he was 12) sweetheart Virginia Pepper ("Ginny") on 9 September 1970. The couple moved to a country farm estate in Exford, on Exmoor, Devon, where while he raised cattle and sheep, Ginny built up her herd of rare-breed Angus cattle while Sir Ranulph was on his expeditions. She supported him so greatly that she was the first woman to receive the Polar Medal. The two remained married until her death from stomach cancer in February 2004.[7]

He embarked on a lecture tour, where in Cheshire he met horsewoman Louise Millington (born Bath, Somerset, circa 1967), whom he married in a ceremony at St Boniface's Church, Bunbury, one year and three weeks after Ginny's death. The couple welcomed a daughter Elizabeth in April 2006.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Top Gear series 4, episode 9, "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car."
  2. ^ http://www.transglobe-expedition.org
  3. ^ Interview with Guardian 5 Oct 2007
  4. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50650, p. 11713, 8 September 1986. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  5. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53882, p. 17745, 29 December 1994. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  6. ^ Top Gear series 9, Polar Special
  7. ^ Intriguing past of Sir Ranulph Fiennes's new wife Daily Mail - 2 July 2006

[edit] External links

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
(of Banbury)
Succeeded by
no heir
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