So you’ve probably never heard of Ranulph Fiennes. No, he’s not the father of actor Ralph Fiennes (they’re actually third cousins). All you need to know about him is that he’s one of the most fearless—and curious—people on Earth. It’s even official. In the 1980s, Guinness World Records named the British writer/adventurer/knight/politician “The World’s Greatest Living Explorer” by the Guinness Book of World Records. Now nearly 70, Fiennes continues to embark on incredibly dangerous expeditions. His many adventures could easily fill a dozen biographies, but here are a choice few:
Fire man. While serving in the British Army in 1967, Ranulph Fiennes and a colleague plotted to blow up a dam outside the English town of Castle Combe. Why would Fiennes turn on his own nation? The dam was artificial, and it had been built by 20th Century Fox for the movie adaptation of Dr. Doolittle. Fiennes thought it was an eyesore, so he used his military training to set up a series of timed explosions. Fiennes and his compatriot successfully destroyed the dam and evaded capture…for a while. Unfortunately, they were ratted out, had to pay a fine, and were discharged. Amazingly, Fiennes was later asked back into his regiment.
Ice man. For the past few decades, Ranulph Fiennes has gone looking for lost cities. In 1992, he became the first person in history to cross Antarctica alone. In 2000, he attempted to reach the North Pole on his own. The expedition failed when one of his sleds encountered weak ice. He gave up and returned to England with severe frostbite on his left hand. Facing amputation, but disliking how his surgeon was handling the matter, Fiennes went ahead and chopped off several of his own fingertips with a common saw.
Running man. Four months after undergoing heart surgery in 2003, Ranulph Fiennes ran seven marathons, one on each continent.
Mountain man. Even Ranulph Fiennes has his fears—he’s afraid of heights. But in 2009, he seemingly overcame it in a big way by climbing Mt. Everest. At age 65, he was the oldest British person to ever reach the summit.
To celebrate his 69th birthday, Fiennes plans to conquer Antarctica. In the middle of winter. Why? To complete the trilogy of cold expedition feats: climb Everest, reach the North Pole, and finally, reach the South Pole.