Meet Bear Grylls, the survival expert and a man with a wild adventure streak
Shot entirely in high-definition, the new episodes of Man vs Wild on Discovery Channel takes Grylls to the terrifying jungles of Belize. He faces some of the harshest conditions on earth as he parachutes into the frigid Siberian Tundra, braves the raging waterfalls of the Dominican Republic, transverses his way through the
remote wilderness of the Oregon, journeys through the dry sands of the Sahara and the torturous swamp of Indonesia. Grylls, at 23, went on to become the youngest British climber to complete a summit and descent on Mount Everest. He wrote about his experience in the book, The Kid Who Climbed Everest. Last year, Grylls returned to the Himalayas to conquer a new dream â attempting to fly a powered paraglider higher than Everest, a feat that was documented in Bear's Mission To Everest on Discovery Channel.
How long have you been an adventure freak?
I was brought up from a very young age with all the survival and outdoor stuff and all the climbing. My job with Special Air Service, a Special Forces unit of the British Army, always involved skydiving and climbing and survival again. So all of those things are what really equipped me to be able to do Man Vs Wild.
I grew up with a very strong dream to try and climb Everest, and my dad taught me to climb when I was five or six, and at that age, it was my way of being close to him. He gave me a picture of Everest when I was about eight, and it was just a dream we really shared together, and that was the world I grew up in. It was a real dream come true to be able to finally achieve that. But that was a huge dream for me growing up.
Share one of your most thrilling experiences.
I've got a long list. We have loads of clichÃ©s on this, and much more than I would like to. I've had close encounters with jumping on the back of 16-foot man-eating tiger sharks and trying to get on top of alligators. I have also dealt with big, nine-foot boa constrictors. I've had vines break on me when I've been climbing down overhanging vertical waterfalls and cliffs. I've had close scrapes in big rivers and rapids, you know, getting pinned against things. I mean, I've had lots of them, and I'm not proud of those moments.
And then I had a free-fall parachuting accident where I broke my back in three places and I spent like a year in rehabilitation and suddenly, I couldn't walk or do anything. Suddenly that dream of Everest was a long way away.
I think eventually, by the grace of God, many years after the accident, I've been lucky enough to eventually stand on the top of that mountain after three and a half months up there where we had four people lose their lives. I think in many ways, it was a very life defining moment for me. So that's one of them.
You have also broken records and seem to be quite daring. What does it take to do what you do?
It's what I brought up to love and to be good at. And it's always a difficult balance doing what you love and what you're good at in your life, but also having the element of risk that is always attached to it. I really have kind of developed an instinct over the years of what to look out for and where the real danger is coming from.
And it's often the hidden things that you don't think of and the smaller things.
It had been my dream since I was a little kid to sort of climb big mountains and have a job where I could be covered in mud and grime all day. It's what I completely love, and as I said, it's genuinely one of the few things I can do in my life and that I'm good at and that really excites me. So it is hard work. There's no doubt. It's full on and its 24 hours a day when we're on it. But it's a privilege and it's all of these places are places I've always dreamed of going and I always kind of feel Man vs. Wild since I was a kid. It just was never filmed before, so I feel really lucky to be able to do what I always kind of grew up to want to do.
We have been told that you use your training and adventurous techniques. How and what have you been trained in?
I spent three years with the British SAS, the years I'm most proud of in many ways in my life. They were also probably the hardest years of my life.
You have also gone on record eating raw insects. How do you do it? And how different are you in your normal life?
I'm certainly not one of these people who relishes eating yak eyeballs or goat testicles, but it is part of survival. Part of survival is leaving your prejudices behind and doing whatever you need to do to stay alive. I do end up eating quite a lot of terrible stuff. I think the raw goat testicles were the first time I actually threw up after eating something. I've had frozen yak eyeballs after we killed this big yak in Siberia, a lot of live snakes, a lot of massive grubs the size of a child's hand. Man, you name it, the intestines from a camel, the fluid from the intestines of a camel, camel fat from its hump, it's sort of a long list.
But it is a key part of survival. Ultimately, if you're going to self-rescue, you need movement and movement requires energy. So you need to eat. But I'm certainly not like that when I'm at home. I'm very normal at home and I have two kids and I definitely not on a diet of yak eyeballs at home.
Interesting. Tell us a little more about your personal life?
I live on a houseboat on the Thames in London, with my wife and three kids. I have a little, small private island off the Welsh coast that's got one little house on it, and it's six miles offshore.