Greatest living explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes pays tribute to Sir Ed ahead of centenary

Sir Ranulph Fiennes - dubbed the world's greatest living explorer - is in New Zealand to celebrate our own great explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary. 

Sir Ed would have been 100 this weekend. To mark his centenary, his charity - the Himalayan Trust - is holding a fundraising auction to continue his work helping communities in Nepal. 

Sir Ranulph spoke exclusively to Newshub about Sir Ed, the queues on Everest and cutting off his own frost-bitten fingers.

"I was about 9 years old when I heard about Ed Hillary. and it stuck in my mind. It made a big impression.

"I'm really grateful to him and Tenzing of course. Otherwise, I don't know what I would have done," Sir Ranulph told Newshub.

What Sir Ranulph Fiennes did do was circumnavigate both the North and South Poles and reach the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the only person to have ever completed all three feats.

He now carries the title of the world's greatest living explorer - but of our Sir Ed, he says: 

"The greatest climber that I've ever heard about in my life."

His has been a lifetime of adventure, but he's spent it overcoming his fear of heights and severe vertigo that comes with it.

He says he prefers horizontal ice, even though that's how he lost his fingers to frostbite during a solo record attempt crossing the Arctic. 

Fed up waiting in agony for a surgeon, he got out the fret saw and did the amputation himself.

"It took two days to do the thumb. As long as you didn't get too close to the live bit, there was no problem," Sir Ranulph says.

It took until the age of 65 and two failed attempts to reach the top of the world and follow in Sir Ed's footsteps.

"So the third time - on Ed Hillary's side - we got to the top, no problem. We got up at midnight, so there was no crowding. I think I wouldn't want to do it now by day.

"I would be scared stiff with a whole surge of people like a month or two ago."

But Sir Ranulph wouldn't cap the number of climbers, and says Sir Ed wouldn't want that either. 

"It is such a big earner for the poor people and gives a job to the sherpas. Cutting it right down would be sad. 

"I would make all of them prove they could do a certain basic test down in the base camp to show that they can - and if they can't, too bad. They have to come back another year," he says.

"[They need to] prove that they're okay up to [that] altitude."

Sir Ranulph is in Auckland to celebrate what would have been Sir Ed's centenary. He's determined to uphold his legacy by supporting the Himalayan Trust and the work they continue to do with communities in Nepal. 


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