Living Up to His Nickname
It didn’t take long before he found himself lauded for being the youngest Brit to climb Mt. Everest summit at the age of 23 on 16 May 1998. Bear’s claim to fame was not short-lived as his conquering the Everest only catalyzed his budding career in defying death. He was offered to be the presenter of the show “Man vs. Wild,” making him the peg of a he-man.
His show debuted in March 2006 and ran for seven seasons. In that show, Bear did the impossible. He ate goat dung and drank fresh blood all for the name of survival. Contrary to what most people expect from a daredevil, Bear does not do his nearly impossible stunts just to wow the public. On the contrary, Bear does it to exemplify human genius and survival instinct and for people to realize that we are made to survive regardless of our environment.
Before he came popularly known all over the globe as the man who could survive just about anything, Bear already had a habit of involving himself in other’s troubles and going the extra mile to help. When one of his friends lost a leg, he crossed the River Thames by rowing 22 miles aboard a homemade bathtub, stark naked. That helped them raise funds for his buddy who now enjoys his prosthetic legs.
Yes, Bear Grylls is not a typical mountaineer, let alone an ordinary host. What is amazing about Bear is that he accepts challenges with arms wide open without disregarding the risks involved. What others take with a grain of salt, Bear takes on in total abandon. Not too many people can do that, which explains how and why he was easily, albeit dangerously, catapulted to fame. There isn’t much competition in the area of gross delicacies and do–or–die situations.
Faith Keeps Him Grounded
It’s difficult to keep a person’s feet on the ground once he/she becomes an instant celebrity. Bear managed to keep his pride in check amidst fame and glory. When people talk about his adventures in the wild and his very public display of bravery, Bear would always give his faith credit for it.
He is very vocal about his Christian belief, claiming it to be his primary source of strength. It’s not that he regards life of little value when he puts his life at risk in his search for adventure. On the other hand, what he wants others to see is that life will persist as long as you have the right attitude and determination to keep it.
Anyone can draw inspiration from Bear, who lives life to the full and shows utter respect for it by doing what he could to be a channel of blessing to others. Most of his record–breaking, death–defying projects were for the benefit of foundations and charitable institutions. This man was absolutely of impeccable pedigree.
Bear is Born
Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls is the youngest and only son of Conservative Party politicians, Sir Michael and Lady Sarah Grylls. Bear was born in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland on 7 June 1974 after his mother’s three unsuccessful pregnancies. Sarah’s fourth pregnancy was a very delicate one. She was ordered to stay in bed most of the time for the whole duration of her pregnancy.
Bear spent the first four years of his life in Donaghadee before his whole family moved to Bembridge, Isle of Wight. As a young boy, Bear’s passion for climbing and sailing was heavily influenced by his father who was one of the members of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Michael so inspired his son that Bear included climbing the Everest summit in his list of things to accomplish after his father showed him a picture of it. It was also around that age when he became a Cub Scout.
A Curious Boy
It must be his experience being locked alone that made him a specialist in finding ways to get out. He was a handful, just like any other young boy. As his parents were both busy, his father as a politician and his mother his assistant, Bear is often left at home locked in his room to keep him indoors.
His mother deliberately had a carpenter bore holes onto his wall for him to avoid asphyxiation. Using an improvised hook, Bear would undo the latch from inside through the small holes in his room. For a long time, Bear was scared of his grandfather because of his big dogs. When he was six, Bear was bitten by his grandfather’s dog on the face which tore his nose and lips.
Bear had his share of embarrassments. He was whacked by his father in front of his schoolmates when he bit one of the boys in his school. That might sound like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone in school. But Bear was yet to get into a bigger trouble.
During a field trip, when he was in preparatory school, Bear and his fellow 13–year–old classmates were offered a snog by their headmaster’s daughter. Bear volunteered to be kissed, but it went awry when the girl, after kissing him, ran into her father. She was forced to fabricate a story to cover up for her naughtiness. To avoid being reprimanded, she told him that she was dared by the boys to kiss one of them. That marked the end of Bear’s stay in that school.
Bear Discovers Climbing and Self-Defense
Bear attended Eaton House, Ludgrove School, Eton College. He was one of the core members of the school’s mountaineering club. In fact, while in Eton College, Bear showed the school a glimpse of his mountaineering expertise. He climbed what was thought to be a tricky structure to climb in school—their 120–feet library dome.
In an interview, Bear spoke about the first instance he braved to undertake what seemed to be an impossible feat. By sheer improvisation, he managed to get on the top of the “formidable structure” and even went as far as carving his initials next to that of Sir Ranulph Fiennes—the only person other than him (and the builders) who reached the same spot. Bear was so aptly nicknamed after the adept mammal climbers.
Bear refused to be idle. Being surrounded by bullies, he spent his free time in school learning other skills which became handy in self-defense. In his teenage years he already accomplished lots of things. One of them is being able to speak three languages—English, Spanish, and French.
He earned his second dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, which he used for surviving in the wild. Apart from that, Bear was also into yoga and ninjutsu. Needless to say, Bear’s physical fitness is the result of hard work and strict self-discipline. However, Bear did not deny himself a dose of fun every once in a while. He once dated a beautiful girl who turned out to be a novice nun and spied beautiful French girls working in the Eton kitchen.
Special Air Service Training
After Eton, Bear went to the University of the West of England in Bristol to study modern languages. He joined the university’s officer training corps along with his close friend, Trucker. He developed an admiration for a senior officer who was once in the Special Air Service (SAS). Bear was so taken by his subtle courage and easy demeanor that it sparked a yearning in him to join the SAS.
With his now longtime best friend, Trucker, Bear reported to SAS barracks for training in March 1996. It was the beginning of his grueling military training. The SAS selection is not taken lightly. Out of the many who apply, only very few make it. SAS is not a place for the claustrophobic and faint-hearted soldier wannabes. For six months, Bear and his best friend endured the inhospitable training environment and the most rigid corporate discipline.
One of the most unforgettable trainings Bear had experienced was being commanded not to move a muscle while being enveloped by a swarm of midges. Each breath meant a generous intake of the buzzing insects.
Dead Set on Making it to SAS
They, Trucker and Bear, were stretched beyond their limits only to be told that they did not make it. Fortunately, both of them were again given a chance to prove themselves worthy of joining the SAS if they pass another training. Bear vowed he would do everything to get in.
It was the kind of training that made him into the survivor that he is now; the kind of training only the determined can withstand. This time around, Bear and Trucker were two of the four new soldiers welcomed to the SAS team.
Bear would have given up the first time he failed the SAS selection. But he was a survivor in the truest sense of the word. He kept trying even if it meant going through the same challenges, which he never really liked in the first place. If there’s one thing he loved way back as an SAS trainee that would be summarized by an excerpt in an article he wrote for Mail Online:
“But what do I remember and value most? It is the camaraderie, the friendships and, of course, Trucker, who is still one of my best friends. Some bonds are unbreakable.
A friend once asked me what qualities were needed for SAS. I would say to be self-motivated and resilient; to be calm, yet have the ability to smile when it is grim; to be unflappable, be able to react fast and to have an ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ mentality.
I have relied on many of those qualities in subsequent adventures, from expeditions to Everest to filming my various TV series – Escape to The Legion, Worst-Case Scenario and Born Survivor.
I will never forget the yomps, the specialist training and a particular mountain in the Brecon Beacons. Above all, I feel a quiet pride that for the rest of my days I can look at myself in the mirror and know that once upon a time I was good enough. Good enough to call myself a member of the SAS. Some things don’t have a price tag.”
Even in the midst of difficulties, Bear reveled in friendships and relationships their training forged among his fellow aspirants.
The Legendary Fall
In one of their missions in Zambia, South Africa in 1996, Bear got into a parachute accident. Unbeknown to him, his parachute had a big tear in it disabling him to free it open. From a height of 16,000 feet, he landed with his unopened parachute still on his back. The accident resulted in a spine fracture which had him hospitalized in Headley Court for the whole 12 months.
The fall was so steep that it almost paralyzed Bear for life. His doctors entertained the idea of him not being able to walk again. Still, Bear’s resolve to walk was undaunted by discouraging medical reports.
The Legendary Climb
Bear greatly profited from his 16,000 feet free–falling accident. Surviving that kind of fall made him an even better climber. No crevasse so steep can intimidate him anymore. Bear went on another adventure by climbing the Himalayas. He did it to help him train for the deal he closed with the Davis Langdon and Everest (DLE) Company.
Bear sought sponsorship to climb the highest peak of Mt. Everest. They believed in the young boy’s dream and shelled out £10,000 to finance his climb. What he had to do was to put the DLE flag on the peak of the treacherous mountain and take a picture of it afterwards. Bear reached the highest possible location in the Himalayas—the 22,500 feet peak of the great Mount Ama Dablam. He was named the Youngest Briton to climb what was believed to be ‘unclimbable’ just a year after his hospitalization.
Bear’s climbing career got into a jumpstart just around the time his romantic life did. He was preparing for his biggest climb after the Himalayas trek when he met Shara in their common friend’s place in Scotland. Shara was beautiful and Bear was drawn by her irresistible smile.
Bear’s attraction to Shara intensified when he saw her calmly climb up a mountain with their other friends. Shara, unlike the other two girls, remained composed despite the challenging trek. Being a professional mountaineer, Bear wanted a partner who shares his love of hiking. Shara seemed to be that kind of woman.
Bear was not ready to fall in love though. Romance is the last thing he needed before he leaves for Everest. But on 1 January 1998, Bear asked Shara out for a walk and kissed her nicely at midnight. Coincidentally, Shara lived just across the place Bear was renting in London. When they both went back to London, they started dating.
The Youngest Briton on Mount Everest
With additional source of inspiration, Bear left with their team led by Henry Todd on 27 February 1998. The team planned to take on Mt. Everest from the Nepalese side which is more treacherous than the other points of origin. In fact, majority of the casualties in Mt. Everest perished upon climbing from that side of the mountain. Climbing the highest peak of Mt. Everest means having to conquer a total of five uphill and downhill trails. Mt. Everest can only be climbed by the most agile hikers.
On Shara’s birthday, 31 March, Bear got into an accident as the ground he was stepping on gave way, resulting in yet another fatal fall. He was saved by his rope and his climbing partner pulled him up to safety.
Everyone celebrated with Bear when he broke the record yet again by being the Youngest Brit to have reached the Mt. Everest summit three months following their team’s ascent. DLE could not get any luckier. They put their trust in Bear and he delivered quite excellently. The DLE flag got to the peak of Mt. Everest—brought there by the Youngest Brit to have ever reached that spot.
What the doctors thought to be a perfect candidate for paralysis awed the whole world by his achievement as a mountaineer. Who could blame Bear if he refuses to believe what experts say? For Bear, it was a testimony that as long as he is alive he has a mission to accomplish—he has to keep inspiring people.
But records are meant to be broken. As of the moment Bear no longer holds the title of being the Youngest Brit to summit Mt. Everest. But he will remain to be the only one who made it after recovering from a fatal fall from an altitude of 16,000 feet. Now that’s kind of hard to beat.
For a mountaineer, surviving the perilous trail to the peak of Mt. Everest was an accomplishment of a lifetime. Bear wanted to show the whole world that even an injured military man can still recover, mend the broken pieces, move on, and go up. The Bear who was expelled from school for allegedly kissing a girl and the Bear who was apprehended for dating a nun is now making a name in breaking world records. The same Bear is now also ready not just for petty romance but for a more serious relationship—marriage.
Bear asked Shara to marry him in 1999 during the couple’s visit to Bear’s cousin Penny. He proposed twice indulging Shara to ask her on his knees naked. It was only after so doing that Shara said “yes.” The couple was married the following year, 15 January 2000.
More Death-Defying Stunts
Since the Mt. Everest and Himalaya’s climb, holding record titles became a hobby of Bear's. The third title he acquired was being the first to lead a team to circumnavigate the UK on a jet ski in 2000. The voyage took a month and the proceeds went to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
In 2003, he crossed the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean in an inflatable boat. Their team started out from Halifax, Nova Scotia. It must be because of sheer luck that they endured the rough weather and unforgivingly cold temperature. What do you expect from the very site where The Perfect Storm movie was filmed?
They went through a horrifying sail. The 11–meter open boat waded through the Labrador Sea and Denmark Strait. They came across force 8 gale storms and suffered from hypothermia. They barely made it alive upon reaching John o' Groats, Scotland.
Just two years later, Bear got into another heart–stopping adventure. This time, he stayed out of the water. He led the first team of powered paragliders to try to reach the highest section of the Angel Falls plateau in Venezuela.
Also in the same year, Bear set the record for hosting the highest open-air formal dinner party. The “party” was held at an altitude of 25,000 feet in a hot air balloon. He was joined by fellow balloonist and mountaineering enthusiast David Hempleman-Adams and leader of the Royal Navy Freefall Parachute Display Team Lieutenant Commander Alan Veal.
Of course as it is a “formal party,” Bear acted the part by wearing a mess dress. As 25,000 feet is too much for an alfresco dining experience, Bear had to have an oxygen mask ready. He didn’t do it unprepared. That record was pulled off after over 200 parachute jump rehearsals. If you are Bear Grylls, that is how you raise funds. His team did it for the benefit of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and The Prince's Trust.
Bear went back to the Himalayas in 2007 not to climb it but fly over it in Bear Grylls’ fashion. In a Parajet paramotor, Grylls took off from 14,500 feet. Perhaps only a man of peculiar mindset would ever conceive such an idea. More than just thinking if it could be done, Bear proved it possible. Once up in the air, Bear was confronted with -60 °C temperature. It would have been less death–defying if he were only to survive the temperature.
Upon reaching 29,500 feet, which surpassed the previous record by 10,000 feet, he remained alive in spite of the scarce oxygen in that part of the atmosphere. The original itinerary includes crossing over Mt. Everest, but they were only given permission to fly over south of the mountain. Discovery Channel filmed this nearly impossible paramotoring for everyone all over the world to witness.
In 2008, momentarily resting from endangering his life by flying, Bear went on to see if he could climb some peaks in Antarctica that have never before been explored by humans. By this time, it is very apparent that Bear is almost living the life of a phantom.
Bear Keeps Making News
Anything ordinary bores him. What’s good about Bear is that he does these stunts for charity. This time the lucky recipient were the Global Angels and a potential alternative energies awareness drive. In this feat, Bear and his team wanted to start out their journey aboard an inflatable boat and jet ski. They plan to traverse the stretch of ice on wind-powered kite-ski and electric powered paramotor.
Bear very well knew the risks involved. It was of no surprise when he encountered a kite skiing accident and broke his shoulder. Just like his 1996 free fall, Bear luckily survived the incident, but resulted in prematurely cutting the expedition short.
The moment he felt OK, he completed his fundraising project for Global Angels by setting a Guinness Record in the same year for the longest continuous indoor freefall. He was joined by equally adventurous Al Hodgson and Freddy MacDonald. They used a Milton Keynes’ vertical wind tunnel and successfully broke the record.
Another record was added under Bear belt on 17 May 2009. The Scout Association appointed him Chief Scout after Peter Duncan’s five–year term was completed in July of the same year. The official handing–over ceremony was held at Gilwell 24 with Peter Duncan in the front row and some 3,000 Explorer Scouts. Since its creation in 1920, Bear is the 10th person to be given the prestigious position and the youngest one at that. The Chief Scout role was created in memory of Robert Baden-Powell.
Bear Begins Appearing in Videos
Bear’s first TV appearance was for Sure Deodorant endorsement that featured his Mt. Everest climb. His Mt. Everest adventure earned Bear a position in the UK Ministry of Defense as Head of the Army’s anti–drug television campaign. Another two advertisements done by Bear were for Post's Trail Mix Crunch Cereal. As a man of faith, Bear also urged people to take the Alpha Course that tackles the foundations of the Christian belief and principles.
Such a charismatic individual like Bear would not remain an endorser. In 2005, he made a film called “Escape to the Legion.” It’s a movie about recruits who are training for the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara Desert.
Becoming a TV Presenter for Man vs. Wild
It was Bear’s first attempt in full–blown entertainment production. That proved to be useful when he was offered to host the show “Born Survivor: Bear Grylls” (in the UK) or “Man vs. Wild” (in international TV). His show got a following of over one billion viewers worldwide, making it an absolute hit. The show went on for another seven series and was removed from the Discovery Channel in 2012 on the grounds of contract disputes. He renewed his relationship with Discovery in the early 2013 and the show “Bear Grylls: Ultimate Survivor” is now underway.
While globetrotting for the “Man vs. Wild” production, Bear managed to produce 12 episodes of “Worst Case Scenario.” Bear is, no doubt, now a celebrity. Despite his hectic schedule, Bear was able to publish books such as “Facing Up,” which was launched in the US with the title “The Kid Who Climbed the Everest.”
Reaching the Heights of Success
In his desire to inspire, Bear wrote another book, “Facing the Frozen Ocean.” The book was one of the finalists in the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. In 2008, he wrote his third book, “Born Survivor: Bear Grylls” to complement his TV show. The book ended up in Sunday Times’ Top 10 BestSeller list. He also wrote a book for outdoor enthusiasts called “Bear Grylls Outdoor Adventures.” His autobiography was launched in 2011 with the title “Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography.”
Among the many things Bear does is delivering inspirational speeches, managing his own business called Juice Plus, designing his own clothing range produced by Craghoppers, and creating a series of knives and survival equipment with the help of Gerber.
The dad in him inspired the creation of his children’s survival book series. Bear Grylls is the proud and doting father of three boys, named Jesse, Marmaduke, and Huckleberry.
Bear currently works on getting used to wearing underpants as it’s a common belief that doing so yields to a production of a baby girl.
- The Prince's Trust
- The JoLt Trust
- Global Angels
- The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme
- The Royal National Lifeboat Institution
- SSAFA Forces Help
- Special Air Services
- Hope and Homes for Children
- 2011 Christchurch Earthquake Fundraising
- UK Ministry of Defense (Army’s Anti-Drug TV Campaign)
- 1993: Got accepted in the Special Air Services
- 1996: Survived a 16,000 feet free-fall
- 1997: Became the Youngest Briton who climbed Mount Ama Dablam in the Himalayas
- 1998: Held the Guinness Record title as the Youngest Briton to reach the Everest summit
- 2000: Led the first team to circumnavigate the whole of UK
- 2003: Successfully crossed across the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean in an inflatable boat
- 2004: Awarded by the Royal Naval Reserve with the honorary rank of Lieutenant Commander
- 2004: His book Facing the Frozen Ocean was in the shortlist of William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award
- 2005: Led the first team to paramotor over Angel Falls
- 2005: Set the record of hosting the highest formal dinner at an altitude of 25,000 feet via hot-air balloon
- 2006 to 2012: Hosted Man vs. Wild
- 2007: Paramotored over the Himalayas enduring low oxygen and extremely cold temperature upon ascent and descent
- 2008: Set the record with Hodgson and MacDonald for the longest indoor freefall
- 2009: Appointed as Chief Scout and became the youngest to hold the position
- His 'Facing the Frozen Ocean' book was shortlisted as Sports Book of the Year