BBC Home
Explore the BBC



Last Updated: Wednesday July 23 2008 10:16 GMT

Authors on the spot: Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls is a record-breaking adventurer and survival expert who became the youngest Brit to successfully climb Mount Everest when he was just 23 years old.

As well as making TV shows demonstrating how to survive dangerous situations in the wild, he's now started writing children's books.

Did you always want to be an adventurer?

My dad taught me to climb when I was really young, about five or six, and I think at that age it was one of the few things that felt natural to me and that I could do OK. But really, I think it was actually about wanting to be close to him.

How did you come to climb Everest?

I joined the Army at 19 as a soldier and spent about four and a half years with them. Then I broke my back in a freefall parachuting accident and spent a year in rehabilitation back in the UK.

I had to leave the Army and I suppose for me the whole dream of climbing Everest became a focus of that recovery. I sort of felt life had given me a second chance.

Where have you learnt all your survival tips?

I probably learnt half of it growing up, it's just what I was always into, and then I honed it through my job in the Army, teaching combat survival. It was very intensive training and I did it for a long time.

So, I've got books and books and books in my head of this sort of stuff. My problem is not making them 800 pages long!

Any advice for wannabe adventurers?

I think what matters is to have those dreams and not be scared to go for them and not be scared to fail along the way.

Life's full of lots of dream-stealers always telling you you need to do something more sensible. I think it doesn't matter what your dream is, just fight the dream-stealers and hold onto it.

What's the grossest thing you've done?
Probably eating the frozen eyeballs of a yak or drinking the fluid from a camel's stomach.

I had a very bad one the other day... I found a rotting sheep in a peat bog in Ireland and skinned that and slept inside its fur, but it was really manky. I called it my sheeping bag!

Why would you do that?

Because it's freezing cold, it's pouring with rain and wool keeps warm when it's wet. People can die of exposure very quickly when it's windy and wet.

What's the biggest danger you face on expeditions?

Weather. Weather can kill you so fast. The first priority of survival is getting protection from the extreme weather.

I was dropped in the middle of the Sahara Desert once and my brief from the search and rescue guys was, 'If we dropped you here with no survival skills and no water you'd be dead in three hours'... Not in three days or three weeks - three hours.

What is survival?

Survival can be summed up in three words - never give up. That's the heart of it really. Just keep trying.

It's about using what's around you, being inventive with it and thinking your way round situations - whether it's using the skin of a deer to sleep under, the carcass of a camel to shelter from a sandstorm or your shoelaces to help you climb a tree.

After I killed an alligator, I used all it's fat to smear on my face as mosquito repellent and cut the hide into strips as cord for my shelter. There's no manual that tells you that.

What do you always take with you on trips?

Three things... my flint to start a fire, my faith is also a key part of it and it's such a strong part of survival, and then I take a laminated photo of my family, that I tuck in my shoe.

Does anything scare you?

Lots of things. Big groups of people, scary interviews(!) and I always find cities intimidating. I'm quite scared of heights as well, but I spend a lot of time up high on things.

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you might not make it?

Quite a lot. I think the parachuting accident was a big one. I fell down a 1,000ft crevice on Everest and I've had back to back incidents with alligators and been bitten by snakes.

One last thing... why does everyone call you Bear?

I was christened Edward, that became Ted, then Teddy Bear... it's not very butch, but there we go.

I had a bad-tempered Latin teacher who used to call me Edward, but apart from that everyone's called me Bear since I was a baby.