Best known as the host of the captivating Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild among others, Bear Grylls has established himself as either one of the most loved or hated outdoorsmen on television. While there’s no denying that Grylls has a lifetime of accomplishments and qualifications to make him credible, his time on TV has been the source of numerous controversies. So, take a deep-dive into the life of Bear Grylls to learn about his countless achievements, near-death experiences, the repulsive things he’s consumed, and his life outside of television. Don’t try any of these at home!
His Real Name Isn’t Bear
While most people don’t think twice about the name Bear Grylls, as it turns out, Bear isn’t his first name. He was born Edward Michael Grylls on June 7, 1974. When he was one week old, his elder sister, Lara Fawcett, gave him the nickname “Bear.”
Today, Bear is well into his 40’s, so it’s clear that his nickname stuck with him for life. However, his nickname is definitely appropriate, making him sound much more rugged than if everyone referred to him as Edward.
He Has A Military Background
After graduating from college, Bear spent some time hiking in the Himalayan mountains. He then joined the British Army with 21 Special Air Service (SAS) as a trooper trained in unarmed combat, desert and winter warfare, survival, climbing, parachuting, and explosives.
He served from 1994 to 1997 and eventually became a survival trainer where he was stationed in North Africa, twice. In 2004, he was awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve and again in 2015, the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines Reserve.
He Survived A Freefall From 11,000 Feet
If you’ve seen Man vs. Wild, you know that Grylls is an expert skydiver. He frequently skydives into his location no matter how dangerous it may be. What’s surprising is that back in 1996, Grylls had a near-death experience while skydiving. During a SAS training exercise, Grylls was skydiving in Zambia when his parachute failed to open.
He landed on his back, and although his spine was intact, he fractured three vertebrae. He then spent the next year undergoing intense 10-hour physical rehabilitation sessions a day including physiotherapy, swimming, and ultrasound treatment.
He Was The Youngest Person To Climb Mount Everest
Mount Everest is a daunting undertaking, even for the world’s most experienced climbers. Over the years, countless skilled mountain climbers have tried, failed, and even perished on their way to the summit. Of course, this wasn’t going to deter Grylls from trying his hand at it.
In 1998, just 18 months after his skydiving accident, he reached the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 23. Shortly after, he was named the youngest person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest by Guinness World Records. However, since then, Bear’s record has been broken on four separate occasions.
Being A Celebrity Makes Him Uncomfortable
Watching Grylls wrestle crocodiles, eat raw rattlesnakes, and outrun trains, it appears that nothing scares him. Yet, it was revealed that his biggest fear is his stardom. While some celebrities bask in their popularity and fame, Grylls shies away from it. He also doesn’t enjoy being around big-name stars either because they make him feel uncomfortable.
He claims he isn’t cut out to regularly attend Hollywood premiers and fancy dinners. He’s happy that his wife shares the same mentality stating “She finds the fame thing awkward – she’s very grounded. It makes home nice to come back to. I don’t want to go to glitzy parties.”
He Helped Drew Breeze Kill A Crocodile
We’ve seen Grylls wrestle his fair share of wild animals, especially crocodiles and alligators. He’s done it so frequently that he even started having celebrities do his dirty work for him. On an episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls, NFL quarterback for the Saints, Drew Breeze, joins Grylls on an adventure in the Panama jungle.
It’s there that they stumble across as six-foot crocodile. While most people might steer clear of the animal, all Grylls sees is food. So, he distracts the crocodile while Breeze sneaks up from behind, jumps on its back, and the two proceed to drive a knife into its brain together.
He’s Big On Family
When Grylls isn’t busy jumping out of airplanes or demonstrating how to get out of quicksand, he prefers to spend his time with his family. While he claims that he loves cozying up and watching DVDs, that doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily a homebody. He names his family as his ideal travel companions, and they frequently go on trips together.
Furthermore, all three of Grylls’ sons inherited his sense of adventure for climbing. Grylls notes that “There’s nothing better than strapping them in and we jump off these mountains together […] It’s one of the great pleasures in my life, to get to do those sort of adventures with the family.”
He Comes From A Prominent Family
Even though Bear Grylls made a name for himself on his own, especially in the United States, he was born into a notable British family. He is the son of Sir Michael and Lady Sarah Grylls, with his father being a respected conservative in British politics and business.
His parents’ influence led him to attend the prestigious Eton College where he aided in founding its first mountaineering club. He went on to study Spanish and German at the University of West England and the Birkbeck, University of London. He graduated with 2:2 bachelor’s degree in Hispanic studies in 2002.
Scaling The Impossible
While Bear may have set the record as the youngest person to ever summit Everest, completing the climb in just 90 days, that’s not his only mountaineering accomplishment. While preparing for Mount Everest, he scaled Mount Ama Dablam in the Himalayas, setting the record for the youngest person to make it to the summit as well.
The peak of the mountain is so daunting that even the legendary mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary described it as being “unscalable.” To this day, Ama Dablam is regarded as one of the most extreme peaks to climb on earth.
A “High” Class Dinner
Another world record that Grylls holds is the records for the world’s highest open-air dinner party. Grylls and Lt Cdr Alan Veal RN shared a meal in a hot air balloon 7,600 meters or 25,000 feet above the ground.
SBS News reported that “Grylls enjoyed asparagus tips, duck a l’orange and fruit terrine, with side orders of freezing temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius. Once finished, he saluted the Queen and then skydived back down to earth, as you do.” Now, this is the type of Bear Grylls dinner most people expect.
He’s A Hotbed For Controversy
Grylls and his various shows, particularly Man vs. Wild, have experienced their fair share of backlash. In 2007, it was revealed that Gryll’s doesn’t actually survive in the wilderness and is actually provided with food, water, and a place to sleep off-camera. After a hiatus, the show came back on the air with the new disclaimer: “Bear Grylls and the crew receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations, as required by health and safety regulations.”
Wildlife television icon, David Attenborough, has spoken out against Grylls’, claiming that many of his actions are misleading, cruel to animals, and are purely for entertainment.
He Has Ingested Some Unbelievable Things
Over the course of his television career, Bear Grylls has eaten and drank things that are so foul, most people can’t even watch them from the comfort of their couch. Whether it’s horrifyingly large insects or dead carcasses, Grylls never misses out on an opportunity for a meal out in the wild.
However, some of the things that have topped the charts include when he squeezed the liquid from elephant dung as a source of hydration or killing a snake with his teeth and proceeding to eat it raw. So, far there isn’t anything Grylls hasn’t been willing to put in his mouth.
He Climbed A Peak In Antarctica For Charity
In 2008, Grylls led a four-person team to climb one of the most remote peaks in the world located in Antarctica. Their goal was to raise money for the children’s charity Global Angels as well as to promote the use of alternative forms of energy.
To promote alternative energies, the team also explored the coast of Antarctica in an inflatable boat powered by bioethanol, a wind-powered ski-kite, and an electric powered paramotor. The trip was cut short after breaking his shoulder while kite skiing across a portion of ice. Grylls had to be medically evacuated.
He’s Racked Up Quite A Few Injuries
Aside from his skydiving accident, Grylls’ body has been through the wringer. In his life, he has suffered more injuries than most people would sustain in multiple lifetimes. He’s crushed his shoulders, a nearly sliced-off finger, a broken elbow, smashed knee cartilage, broken toes, dislocated his hip, and chipped his shin bones.
We also can’t forget about the countless lacerations, snake and bat bites, scorpion stings, among other minor injuries. Believe it or not, he has also been sure to count the majority of his mosquito bites which clocks in around 4,319. But who’s counting?
Flying Above Mountains
In 2007, Grylls set yet another record for a Parajet parameter in the Himalayas. He took off on a mountain eight miles south of the Mount Everest and flew around the mountain, flying so high that he looked down on mountain’s summit. During his flight, he had to deal with -76°F as well as dangerously low oxygen levels.
He ended up flying up to 30,000 feet high, almost 10,000 feet higher than the previous record. His flight was filmed for Discovery Channel Worldwide and was aired on Channel 4 in the UK. While he wanted to cross over Everest, he didn’t have a permit to.
Crossing The North Atlantic
In 2007, Grylls led yet another incredible expedition across the North Atlantic Ocean with a team of five people. They were in a 36-foot open boat, almost completely defenseless against the elements. At one point on the journey, they experienced a severe change in climate and had to navigate through icebergs in the open ocean.
A few of the men on the voyage included an old childhood friend, a member of the SAS, and one of his Mount Everest partners, Mick Crosthwaite. The team started in Halifax, Nova Scotia and docked at John o’ Groats, Scotland.
There Was A Video Game Based On Man vs. Wild
Considering that Bear Grylls is all about getting outside and connecting with nature, it’s surprising that he struck up a video game deal. Man vs. Wild the video game was released in 2011 for the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The game is rated T for Teen as players take on the role of Grylls himself and attempt to survive a variety of survival situations. Predictably, the game wasn’t a smashing success. However, it gave die-hard Man vs. Wild fans had the opportunity to test their survival knowledge virtually.
He Owns a Private Island
Typically, owning a private island means that you’re in the top one percent of the wealthiest people on earth. While Bear Grylls makes a comfortable living, there’s no way he could afford a white sand island in the Bahamas as some people do. Nevertheless, he does own a small island off the coast of Whales.
However, the island isn’t quite what you might think. Grylls describes it as being “20 acres and five miles offshore with no mains, electricity, or running water. It has a little lighthouse beside our house and is surrounded by amazing sea cliffs, seals, and dolphins. It is my favorite place on the planet!”
He’s Had Some Incredible Celebrities On His Show
Premiering on July 29, 2014, the survival show Running Wild with Bear Grylls features Bear taking notable celebrities on a two-day wilderness trip. Grylls pushes the stars to their limits, even convincing them to kill and eat some pretty unappetizing things.
The show is currently filming its fifth season with some of the past guests including Barack Obama, Ben Stiller, Zach Efron, Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts, and more. It was announced in February 2019, that the show would be moving from the Discovery Channel to National Geographic for its fifth season.
He’s The Chief Scout Of The Scout Association
In 2009, it was announced that Bear Grylls would be appointed the UK’s Chief Scout after the end of Peter Duncan’s five-year term. He was officially made Chief Scout in July 2011 in front of over 3,000 Explorer Scouts.
Upon accepting the position, he was officially named the tenth person to hold the post and the youngest Chief Scout since Robert Baden-Powell in 1920. In 2015, Grylls announced that he would continue with the position until 2018 when he would hand the honor off to someone else.