Ranulph Fiennes Biography

PHOTO: Ranulph Fiennes

Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, described by the Guinness Book of Records as "the world’s greatest living explorer", can trace his family’s ancestry back a thousand years to Charlemagne.

Fiennes was born in England, spending part of his childhood in South Africa. The family returned to England when he was 12-years-old and he was educated at Eton. Like his father, Fiennes joined the Royal Scots Greys before switching to the elite SAS regiment.

There, he became the youngest captain in the British Army, where he spent eight years. He was dismissed from service following a practical joke, in which the set of the movie 'Doctor Doolittle' was blown up. Following this, he moved to the Middle East to join the Sultan of Oman's forces.

In 1970, Fiennes married Virginia Pepper, whom he had known since childhood. It was at this point he began leading major expeditions, travelling up the White Nile in 1969 and journeying into the Jostedalsbre Glacier in 1970.

Amongst his greatest adventures was the 52,000 mile Transglobe Expedition between 1979 and 1982, the first surface journey around the world's polar axis. It had taken seven years to plan and three years to complete – he and his partner, Charles Burton, were the first men to reach both poles. Fiennes also undertook the PUNS Expeditions, gaining the record for Furthest North Unsupported in 1986, and again in 1990.

Awarded an honorary doctorate of science by Loughborough University in 1983, he also received the recognition of the Explorer's Club of New York. The following year he was awarded the Founder's Medal by the Royal Geographical Society and the Polar Medal with Bar from the Queen.

Fiennes discovered the Lost City of Ubar in Oman in 1992 and in 1993, with Mike Stoud, completed the first unassisted trans-Arctic journey, the longest in history at 97 days. He was awarded the OBE in 1993, developing a career as an author and motivational speaker.

He has written a total of 13 fiction and non-fiction books during his career, starting with 'A Talent For Trouble', which he wrote in 1970, and follows the story of the White Nile Hovercraft Expedition. He suffered a heart attack, Britain's biggest killer, on 7 June 2003. Shortly after recovering, he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

In 2005, Fiennes reached 28,500ft in an attempt to climb Everest. Two years later, despite a morbid, lifelong fear of heights, he 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.

He was forced to abandon another climb to Everest in 2008 after suffering from exhaustion, and finally reached the summit on a different expedition on 20 May 2009. By doing so, he became the oldest man in Britain to reach the mountain's peak.

Fiennes has been named as the UK's top celebrity fundraiser by JustGiving after he raised over £2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care in a period of just two years. Overall, his expeditions have succeeded in raising in excess of £14 million for UK charities.

In September 2010, the explorer hit the headlines when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a vehicle travelling on the opposite side of the road. He had taken part in a 42-mile High Peak Marathon earlier that same day.

While he was left largely uninjured, the driver of the other car was in intensive care for a month. Fiennes pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without due care and attention and was fined £1,000.

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