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He did it - Ran Fiennes

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At Everest
Image: Liz Scarff

"Described by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's greatest living explorer", Sir Ranulph Fiennes has refused to let a heart attack stop him.

Everest held "painful memories" for him. In 2005 he suffered a heart attack during an unsuccessful attempt to scale the mountain. In 2008 he returned. He tried to reach the summit, but 1,000 feet below it, "felt as if an elephant was sitting on my chest".

Early on the morning of May 21st, Fiennes succeeded. He became the oldest Brit to climb Everest. Simultaneously, he raised money for cancer research, a cause very dear to his heart.

Fiennes was born a few days after his father died in action in World War II. He grew up to have a rambunctious career in the British Army. Seconded to the army of Oman, he was decorated for bravery by the Sultan. He became an adventurer in the 1960s. He combined his adventures with raising money for charity.

Ran Fiennes was the first man to reach both the north and south poles by surface means and the first man to completely cross Antarctica on foot. He bears the scars on his body - he sawed off the painful, frostbitten tips of the fingers on his left hand. He has written thirteen books recording his experiences.

In 1992 he led an expedition to discover the lost city of Ubar in Oman. In 1993, he received an OBE from HM The Queen "for human endeavour and charitable services".

In 2003, despite his recent heart attack, Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud, his companion on his circumnavigation of the globe along the Greenwich meridian, ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. How did Fiennes do it?

Home, he said, was where his wife was. Virginia "Ginny" Pepper was his childhood sweetheart and wife. She raised cattle and sheep on their Exmoor farm, "dreamed up most of his expeditions and accompanied him on many of them". Ginny gave him extensive logistics support and was the first woman to receive the Polar Medal. In 2004 she died of cancer.

Over the years Sir Ranulph has raised millions of pounds for cancer research and hospice care. He is a member of the Freedom Association.

Since his wife's death Ran has remarried and has become a father for the first time. This is a man undaunted by age who perseveres. I salute him.

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