Bear Grylls

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Bear Grylls
Coventry Scouts groups have a visit from Bear Grylls.jpg
Bear Grylls meeting with Coventry Scouts groups, October 2012
Born Edward Michael Grylls
(1974-06-07) 7 June 1974 (age 44)
Donaghadee, Northern Ireland
Alma mater
Spouse(s) Shara Cannings Knight[3]
Children Jesse, Marmaduke[4] and Huckleberry[5]

Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls (born 7 June 1974) is a British adventurer, writer and television presenter. He is widely known for his television series Man vs. Wild (2006–2011), originally titled Born Survivor: Bear Grylls in the United Kingdom. Grylls is also involved in a number of wilderness survival television series in the UK and US. In July 2009, Grylls was appointed the youngest-ever Chief Scout in the UK at age 35.

Personal life

Grylls was born in Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland.[6][7] He grew up in Donaghadee until the age of four, when his family moved to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight.[8][9]

He is the son of Conservative politician Sir Michael Grylls, who was implicated in the cash-for-questions affair, and Lady Sarah Grylls.[10] Lady Grylls is the daughter of politician Patricia Ford,[11] briefly an Ulster Unionist Party MP, and cricketer and businessman Neville Ford. Grylls has one sibling, an elder sister, Lara Fawcett, a cardio-tennis coach, who gave him the nickname 'Bear' when he was a week old.[12]

Grylls was educated at Ludgrove School and Eton College, where he helped start its first mountaineering club,[13] and Birkbeck, University of London,[14] where he graduated with a degree, obtained part-time, in Hispanic studies in 2002.[15][16] He graduated from the University of West of England.[17]

From an early age, he learned to climb and sail with his father, who was a member of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron. As a teenager, he learned to skydive and earned a second dan black belt in Shotokan karate. At age eight he became a Cub Scout.[18] He speaks English, Spanish, and French.[19] He is a Christian, and has described his faith as the "backbone" in his life.[20]

Grylls married Shara Cannings Knight in 2000.[3][11] They have three sons.[21][5] In August 2015, it was reported that Grylls had deserted his young son, Jesse, on Saint Tudwal's Island along the North Wales coast, as the tide approached, leaving him to be rescued by the RNLI. The RNLI later criticised him for the stunt, saying its crew "had not appreciated" that a child would be involved.[22]

Military service

After leaving school, Grylls briefly considered joining the Indian Army and hiked in the Himalayan mountains of Sikkim and West Bengal.[23] Eventually, Grylls joined the Territorial Army and, after passing selection, served as a reservist with the 21 SAS Regiment (Artists Reserve) until 1997.[citation needed]

In 1996, Grylls suffered a freefall parachuting accident in Zambia. His parachute ripped at 4,900 metres (16,000 ft), partially opening, causing him to fall and land on his parachute pack on his back, which partially crushed three vertebrae. He later said, "I should have cut the main parachute and gone to the reserve but thought there was time to resolve the problem".[24] According to his surgeon, Grylls came "within a whisker" of being paralysed for life and it was questionable whether he would ever be able to walk again. Grylls spent the next 12 months in and out of military rehabilitation at Headley Court[24] before being discharged from his medical treatment and directing his efforts to getting well enough to fulfill his childhood dream of climbing Mount Everest.[citation needed]

In 2004, Grylls was previously awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve;[25] and in 2013 he was awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines Reserve.[26]


On 16 May 1998, Grylls achieved his childhood dream of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal, 18 months after breaking three vertebrae in a parachuting accident.[27] At 23, he was at the time among the youngest people to have achieved this feat. There is some dispute over whether he was the youngest Briton to have done so, as he was preceded by James Allen, a climber holding dual Australian and British citizenship, who reached the summit in 1995 at age 22.[28][29] The record has since been surpassed by Jake Meyer and then Rob Gauntlett who summitted at age 19. To prepare for climbing at such high altitudes in the Himalayas, in 1997, Grylls became the youngest Briton to climb Ama Dablam, a peak once described by Sir Edmund Hillary as "unclimbable".[30]

Other expeditions

Circumnavigation of the UK

In 2000 Grylls led the team to circumnavigate the British Isles on jet skis,[25] taking about 30 days, to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). He also rowed naked in a homemade bathtub along the Thames to raise funds for a friend who lost his legs in a climbing accident.[27]

Crossing the North Atlantic

Three years later, he led a team of five, including his childhood friend, SAS colleague, and Mount Everest climbing partner Mick Crosthwaite, on an unassisted crossing of the north Atlantic Ocean, in an open rigid inflatable boat. Grylls and his team travelled in an eleven-metre-long boat and encountered force 8 gale winds with waves breaking over the boat while passing through icebergs in their journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia to John o' Groats, Scotland.[31]

Dinner party at altitude

In 2005, alongside the balloonist and mountaineer David Hempleman-Adams and Lieutenant Commander Alan Veal, leader of the Royal Navy Freefall Parachute Display Team, Grylls created a world record for the highest open-air formal dinner party, which they did under a hot-air balloon at 7,600 metres (25,000 ft), dressed in full mess dress and oxygen masks.[32] To train for the event, he made over 200 parachute jumps. This event was in aid of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and The Prince's Trust.[33]

Paramotoring over the Himalayas

In 2007, Grylls embarked on a record-setting Parajet paramotor in Himalayas near Mount Everest. He took off from 4,400 metres (14,500 ft), 8 miles south of the mountain. Grylls reported looking down on the summit during his ascent and coping with temperatures of −60 °C (−76 °F). He endured dangerously low oxygen levels and eventually reached 9,000 metres (29,500 ft), almost 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) higher than the previous record of 6,102 metres (20,019 ft). The feat was filmed for Discovery Channel worldwide as well as Channel 4 in the UK.[34] While Grylls initially planned to cross over Everest itself, the permit was only to fly to the south of Everest, and he did not traverse Everest out of risk of violating Chinese airspace.[35]

The expedition provoked some controversy. Grylls initially reported on his blog to have broken a new world record by flying over Mount Everest, when in fact – though reaching a height greater than Everest – he did not actually fly over the top of the mountain but was in fact some miles away from it.[28] Some explorers have cast doubts on the veracity of other aspects of the flight, such as its purportedly record-setting height, which would have put him into the "death zone" where the amount of oxygen in the air is insufficient to sustain human life.[28]

Journey Antarctica 2008

In 2008, Grylls led a team of four to climb one of the most remote unclimbed peaks in the world in Antarctica. This was raising funds for Global Angels kids charity and awareness for the potential of alternative energies. During this mission the team also aimed to explore the coast of Antarctica by inflatable boat and jetski, part powered by bioethanol, and then to travel across some of the vast ice desert by wind-powered kite-ski and electric powered paramotor. However, the expedition was cut short after Grylls suffered a broken shoulder while kite skiing across a stretch of ice. Travelling at speeds up to 50 km/h (30 mph), a ski caught on the ice, launching him in the air and breaking his shoulder when he came down. He had to be medically evacuated.[36]

Longest indoor freefall

Grylls, along with the double amputee Al Hodgson and the Scotsman Freddy MacDonald, set a Guinness world record in 2008 for the longest continuous indoor freefall. The previous record was 1 hour 36 minutes by a US team. Grylls, Hodgson, and MacDonald, using a vertical wind tunnel in Milton Keynes, broke the record by a few seconds. The attempt was in support of the charity Global Angels.[37][38][39]

Northwest Passage expedition

In August 2010, Grylls led a team of five to take an ice-breaking rigid-inflatable boat (RIB) through 2,500 miles (4,000 km) of the ice-strewn Northwest Passage. The expedition intended to raise awareness of the effects of global warming and to raise money for children's charity Global Angels.[40]


Grylls entered television work with an appearance in an advertisement for Sure deodorant, featuring his ascent of Mount Everest. Grylls was also used by the UK Ministry of Defence to head the Army's anti-drugs TV campaign, and featured in the first ever major advertising campaign for Harrods. Grylls has been a guest on numerous talk shows including Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Attack of the Show!, Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Harry Hill's TV Burp. Grylls recorded two advertisements for Post's Trail Mix Crunch Cereal, which aired in the US from January 2009. He also appeared as a "distinguished instructor" in Dos Equis' Most Interesting Academy in a webisode named "Survival in the Modern Era". He appeared in a five-part web series that demonstrates urban survival techniques and features Grylls going from bush to bash. He also has marketed the Alpha Course, a course on the basics of the Christian faith. In 2013, Grylls appeared in an airline safety video for Air New Zealand entitled Bear Essentials of Safety, filmed against the backdrop of the Routeburn Track on the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island.[41]


Grylls' first book, Facing Up (UK)/The Kid Who Climbed Everest (USA), described his expedition and achievements climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. His second, Facing the Frozen Ocean, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2004.[42] His third book Born Survivor: Bear Grylls was written to accompany the TV series of the same name. It features survival skills learned from some of the world's most hostile places. He also wrote an extreme guide to outdoor pursuits, titled Bear Grylls Outdoor Adventures.[citation needed]

In 2012, Grylls released his autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears: The Autobiography,[43] followed by A Survival Guide for Life in late 2012 and True Grit in 2013.[44]

Grylls also wrote the Mission Survival series of children's adventure survival books titled: Mission Survival: Gold of the Gods, Mission Survival: Way of the Wolf, Mission Survival: Sands of the Scorpion, Mission Survival: Tracks of the Tiger and Mission Survival: Claws of the Crocodile. He also wrote Scouting For All published by the Scout Association in 2011.[citation needed]

Television series

Escape to the Legion

Grylls filmed a four-part TV show in 2005, called Escape to the Legion, which followed Grylls and eleven other "recruits" as they took part in a shortened re-creation of the French Foreign Legion's basic desert training in the Sahara. The show was first broadcast in the UK on Channel 4,[45] and in the USA on the Military Channel.[46]

Born Survivor/Man vs. Wild

Bear Grylls in front of an Alaska Air National Guard, 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter before heading out to Spencer Glacier to film Man vs. Wild (Born Survivor)

Grylls hosts a series titled Born Survivor: Bear Grylls for the British Channel 4 and broadcast as Man vs. Wild in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and the U.S.A., and as Ultimate Survival on the Discovery Channel in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The series features Grylls dropped into inhospitable places, showing viewers how to survive. Man vs. Wild debuted in 2006, and its success led it to lasting seven seasons over five years.[citation needed]

The show has featured stunts including Grylls climbing cliffs, parachuting from helicopters, balloons, and planes, paragliding, ice climbing, running through a forest fire, wading rapids, eating snakes, wrapping his urine-soaked T-shirt around his head to help stave off the desert heat, drinking urine saved in a rattlesnake skin, drinking fecal liquid from elephant dung, eating deer droppings, wrestling alligators, field dressing a camel carcass and drinking water from it, eating various "creepy crawlies" [insects], utilising the corpse of a sheep as a sleeping bag and flotation device, free climbing waterfalls and using a bird guano/water enema for hydration.[47][48]

The show caused controversy after a programme consultant revealed that Grylls actually stayed in a motel on some nights – including an episode in Hawaii in which Grylls was ostensibly stranded on a deserted island – and that certain scenes were staged for him.[49] In one example, Grylls was portrayed lassoing a wild mustang in the Sierra Nevada, but it was claimed that this was in fact a tame animal from a nearby pony-trekking centre.[28] Grylls subsequently apologized to viewers who might have felt misled.[49]

In March 2012, the Discovery Channel dropped Grylls from its lineup because of a contractual dispute,[50][51] although he has subsequently worked with them again.

Worst Case Scenario

In 2010, Grylls came out with a new project titled Worst-Case Scenario which aired on Discovery in the USA. It is based on the popular books of the same name.[52] Twelve episodes were produced before the show was cancelled.

Bear's Wild Weekend

In 2011, he made two specials under the title Bear’s Wild Weekend for Channel 4 in the UK which was broadcast over the Christmas holiday that year. Each special featured Grylls taking either Jonathan Ross or Miranda Hart on short two-day adventures; Ross to rainforest in the Canary Islands, Hart to the Swiss Alps.[53] These screened in the US under the title Bear Grylls' Wild Adventure. A third episode with Stephen Fry, this time in the Dolomite mountains of South Tyrol, screened in late 2013.[54]

In 2014, two further episodes were aired in the UK under the title Wild Weekends. The first of these was the 2011 special of Man vs. Wild featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, and the second was the Running Wild episode featuring Ben Stiller.[citation needed]

Get Out Alive

He hosted, Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls, a reality competition series filmed in New Zealand, which premiered on NBC on 8 July 2013.[55][56]

Escape from Hell

In Bear Grylls: Escape from Hell, he reveals the true life stories of ordinary people trapped in extraordinary situations of survival. The six-episode series premiered on the Discovery Channel in the UK on 4 October 2013, and in the US on 11 November 2013.[57]

The Island

He presented The Island with Bear Grylls, first shown on Channel 4 on 5 May 2014. The first series featured 13 British men on an uninhabited Pacific island with very little equipment.[58] Later series featured men and women on separate islands. An American version of the show was also made and it premiered on 25 May 2015 on NBC.[59]

Running Wild with Bear Grylls

In this adventure TV series from NBC, which premiered on 28 July 2014, Grylls takes celebrities on a two-day trip in the wilderness. The celebrities who took part in Season 1 are Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Tamron Hall, Deion Sanders, Channing Tatum, and Tom Arnold.[60][61] Celebrities taking part in Season 2 are Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Drew Brees, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed Helms, Michelle Rodriguez, James Marsden, Michael B. Jordan, and President Barack Obama.[62]

Mission Survive

A Gerber Bear Grylls branded survival knife.

In 2015, he began presenting six-part ITV series Bear Grylls: Mission Survive which features eight celebrities on a twelve-day survival mission. The series began airing on 20 February 2015.[63] Mission Survive will return for a second series in 2016.[64]

Bear Grylls' Survival School

In 2016, he presented a CITV series called Bear Grylls' Survival School. Filming started in August 2015. The series began airing on 10 January 2016.[65][66]

Survivor Games

In summer 2015, China’s Dragon TV ordered a Bear Grylls-fronted adventure series titled Survivor Games. The series featured Bear and eight Chinese celebrities and premiered on Dragon TV on Oct. 16, 2015.[67]

Chief Scout

On 17 May 2009, The Scout Association announced Grylls would be appointed Chief Scout following the end of Peter Duncan's five-year term in July 2009.[68] He was officially made Chief Scout at Gilwell 24 on 11 July 2009 in a handover event featuring Peter Duncan in front of a crowd of over 3,000 Explorer Scouts. He is the tenth person to hold the position and the youngest Chief Scout since the role was created for Robert Baden-Powell in 1920.[69][70]

On 9 April 2015, The Scout Association announced that Grylls would continue as Chief Scout until 2018. Grylls wrote, "I am so proud that the largest youth movement on the planet has asked me to continue in my role as UK Chief Scout."[71]

On 5 June 2015, Grylls, in an interview with The Telegraph, praised the challenge of being Britain's youngest Chief Scout, saying "Scouting humbles me every day".[72]


Grylls is an ambassador for The Prince's Trust, an organisation which provides training, financial, and practical support to young people in the United Kingdom.[21] He is vice president for The JoLt Trust, a small charity that takes disabled, disadvantaged, abused or neglected young people on challenging month-long expeditions.[citation needed]

Global Angels, a UK charity which seeks to aid children around the world, were the beneficiaries of his 2007 accomplishment of taking a powered para-glider higher than Mount Everest. Grylls' held the highest ever dinner party at 7,600 metres (25,000 ft) in aid of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, and launched the 50th anniversary of the Awards. His successful circumnavigation of Britain on jet skis raised money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Grylls' Everest climb was in aid of SSAFA Forces Help, a British-based charitable organisation set up to help former and serving members of the British Armed Forces and their families and dependents. His 2003 Arctic expedition detailed in the book Facing the Frozen Ocean was in aid of The Prince's Trust. His 2005 attempt to para-motor over the Angel Falls was in aid of the charity Hope and Homes for Children.[73]

In August 2010, Grylls continued his fund-raising work for Global Angels by undertaking an expedition through the Northwest Passage in a rigid inflatable boat. Many of his expeditions also support environmental causes such as his Antarctica expedition and his circumnavigation of Britain which tested a pioneering new fuel made from rubbish. In 2011, Grylls was in New Zealand during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Following the incident, he appeared on New Zealand advertisements encouraging people to donate money to help rebuild the city.[74][75][76]


Outside of TV, Grylls works as a motivational speaker, giving speeches worldwide to corporations, churches, schools, and other organisations.[27][51]



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  73. Murray Norton (20 October 2005). "Fancy An Adventure". Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  74. "The Island With Bear Grylls". TVNZ Ondemand. Retrieved 3 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  75. Wootton, Dan (2013-05-09). "Dan Wootton meets Bear Grylls on a New Zealand survival adventure | Daily Mail Online". Retrieved 2015-09-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  76. "Bear Grylls - Global Angels Global Angels". Retrieved 2015-09-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

The Scout Association
Preceded by
Peter Duncan
Chief Scout of the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories