Bear Grylls: 'I broke my back, but I was lying in rehab still hoping to climb Everest'


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The Independent Online

Life begins when you leave your comfort zone: My father was a Royal Marine and a climber, and as a kid we often climbed up the great chalk sea cliffs on the Isle of Wight. Initially I was scared, but as I learnt about the principles of climbing I started to enjoy it, and that's when the adventure started.

Every man should know how to light a fire without matches: Most want to, but not everyone knows how to. I think that's the appeal of my [Mud, Sweat and Tears] tour, as people get to learn some of these skills live on stage. There's a primal instinct in us all to know how to do these things, and if we don't know how, we feel disempowered.

You need broad shoulders in the media world: I loved taking part in [Discovery channel TV series] Man vs. Wild, and I took great risks for that channel. But although I'm proud of those shows, now I'm looking forward to the next set of adventures. [Discovery terminated its relationship with Grylls after he refused to participate in two further projects.]

The world is full of dream-stealers: People who say, "You're mad to have that goal." I'd dreamt of climbing Everest ever since I was a kid, but then I broke my back while I was in the Army. I was lying in military rehab with several broken vertebrae, unable to move, but still hoping to make that climb. Most people just said, "That idea is just crazy!" [Grylls went on to become the youngest Briton, at 23, to summit Everest.] You have to be gentler with people's dreams.

People think I must be a nightmare to go on holiday with: But I love going away to places without snakes or crocodiles – I have enough danger and drama when I work. We own a little island off the Welsh coast and I spend a lot of time with my family having lovely picnics there.

When I was growing up half the kids played outdoors: Now that's dropped to 20 per cent, which is why I joined Persil's campaign [of Top Ten Things to Do Before You're Ten]. I want to empower people to create their own adventures without them having to travel to the ends of the earth. My kids are always building dens [in the garden] and pretending its Everest; it's great to see.

I love being mellow: I did bath-time with all the boys last night [Grylls has three young sons]; lots of bubbles and rubber ducks. [My wife] Shara came in to the bathroom, took one look at us all splashing around and said, "God, if people knew the reality of your life..."

People who stand still on escalators drive me mad: They're there to help you go faster, not to help you go slower so you don't have to take any exercise!

Bear Grylls, 37, is an adventurer, TV presenter and head of the UK Scout Association. He will be hosting the first ever Persil 'Today I Am... Adventure Day' on Saturday. For more information, visit The Bear Grylls Mud, Sweat and Tears Live Tour runs until next Sunday (