We don’t mean to whine, but sometimes being a guy is tricky. Here’s our indispensable guide on how to act like a man when the going gets tough. Legendary adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes knows what it’s like to be stranded totally on your lonesome…
Two people is always more sensible than one. All my unsuccessful expeditions have been when I’ve been by myself. In my day we had no sat nav. Nowadays you have satellite phones in the North Pole and you can speak to people while you’re drinking your coffee in the tent.
When you’re alone, a clear head can save your life. Like when I lost the top half of all my fingers on my left hand. There was a full moon that night but there were clouds so I didn’t have any light. The full moon also meant there was a high tide. If you can imagine the sea coming up under its semi-cover of broken ice, everything goes all over the place. It’s wild – it’s extremely noisy and frightening.
The ice was breaking up.
I was trying to get from one ice flow onto what looked like a bigger one in the dark. My sledge, which I was attached to, fell between the two flows. It started sliding 10 feet down into the sea. I followed. My left hand was totally dead. The other hand was going dead, like two bits of meat. I’d had to put my hands in the water to haul out my tent and cooker.
If I’d panicked at that stage, I would’ve been dead from hypothermia in an hour or two. It was -45ºC, with a wind of about 15mph. It was dark and rumbling everywhere. I was very scared. I was thinking, “Can I do this before the life goes out of the remaining five fingers?”
I am no good at staving off fear or panic. When I’m climbing mountains I get vertigo. I get very frightened. Alone in the Arctic, you never have time to kill. You’re always wanting sleep, you have scientific work to do and that takes time. Navigation takes a hell of a long time too. Getting through on the radio… it takes time setting that all up.
I’ve never had that ‘life flashing before your eyes’ moment. The only time I sort of did die was when I had a massive heart attack and didn’t wake up for four days. That happened without me knowing and I still don’t have memories of it. I’ve never seen any angels or the rest of it.
I’ve yet to discover anything great about being completely by yourself. Apart from the fact it lets you write books.