It was an early evening jump – all very routine of Grylls’s. But then, on opening, the canopy of his parachute tore slightly and he found himself spiralling down very fast from the height of 16,000 feet. He smashed into the African dust and his world went black. He had broken his back in three places and spent the next 18 months in and out of military rehab, fighting to recover his strength, movement and confidence.
It was a dark time for him. He leant a lot on his family, friends and Christian faith and slowly he began to get strong again. Sometimes it takes a knock in life to make you realise what you really value. He left that hospital with a fire inside to live life boldly and with gratitude. He had been given a second chance and that doesn’t always happen.
He was waiting for darkness to descend at the Mount Everest at 26,000ft so that they could start final summit bid.
Four climbers had already lost their lives, two in a fall and two who died of exposure. He knew that the next 24 hours would change his life, one way or the other. He would either live or die, reach the summit or not.
It was -38 degrees and He started feeling blinding migraine, dehydrated, hungry, frozen and above all scared deep in the pit of his stomach. It was the waiting. The tension of knowing that ahead is the final 24-hour climb into the Death Zone where the level of fatigue, pain and risk becomes frighteningly high. One in 6 climbers at that stage were losing their lives, and that plays on your mind as you wait.
They were five broken, cold and very scared men, huddled together, many hundreds of miles offshore, in the middle of the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean, in a small rigid inflatable boat.
They were leading an attempt to cross frozen ocean in a small craft, a distance of some 3,000 miles. It was always going to be an ambitious project. The ice and the weather was a constant and changing factor, and in a small open boat with no cover you are especially vulnerable.
The crew was blind and mute to any rescue operation that could’ve saved them from the freezing waters in case they were to capsize. The crew somehow made it through the storm and reached Icelandic shores, but Grylls swears that this would’ve turned into a definite death sentence.
They were filming in the Sumatran jungle for Born Survior. The crew was depleted as they got separated in some bad torrential storms, so with a crew of four (including Grylls) had pushed on to finish a river sequence they were filming. The river was very swollen in the high rains; murky brown water is always the most dangerous type, as it conceals the hidden obstacles that jungles rivers become so full of, like fallen trees, branches, logs, rocks and of course crocs.
One of the crew said it would be suicide to jump in the river in the state it was flowing – angry class-four jungle rapids – and he couldn’t be part of this if they proceeded. But Grylls felt confident, they could do it if they stayed together and kept to the main flow. In retrospect, the cautious crew member was right and they should have died that day. He got spat to the side, then taken at high speed and rammed against a rock wall that was also undercut. The power of the water was immense. He was pinned under the rock ledge and by the grace of God one of the guys could see his hand just above the water and grabbed it as they passed, pulling him free from the strainer. That hand saved his life. And it taught him a critical survival lesson: you only get it wrong once.
While shooting the episode, The Foot, for Man Vs Wild, Bear Grylls placed himself in three ridiculously dangerous scenarios of survival, before moving onto the fourth. But, it was the last one where he was to slide down the face of a snowy mountain in the Yukon in Canada,when he slipped, and soon after, so did the camera operator. Hidden by a cloud of snow from the operator’s sight, Grylls was in the direct path of his crew member, who banged right into him with the camera – which broke apart.
They say that the crew members in a moment of shock were absolutely sure that the camera cracked open Grylls’s skull, but it missed by only a hair’s breadth. And, Bear Grylls walked – rather was dragged – away with just a broken femur. This, by the way, was on the face of mountain with hundreds of feet below them of nothing.