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His response to our time on Everest, particularly after I finally reached the summit, underpins my admiration for him. I think it is a credit to him that he has never felt the need to go back to
Everest and try again. He just feels lucky to be alive. To risk everything again to try to climb that extra 350 feet is not a risk worth taking. As so many climbers have learned the hard way, our
team included, if you play the odds of one in eight climbers not returning alive from Everest’s summit too often, you don’t always win.

Some people say the summit of a mountain is everything. They’re wrong. Staying alive is everything. The press had no interest in the fact that Mick climbed higher than K2. To them he
‘failed’ to reach the top. But to me, we reached the top together, there was no difference.

I once read that a true friend revels in your success when things are going well and is there for you in difficult times. Well, Mick has been exactly that kind of friend for me. And that’s
why it mattered so much that he should be with me this time.

The next challenge for both of us was to tell his parents. I thought he should do this himself.

‘Mick, you’re grown up, for God’s sake, don’t be a wet blanket,’ I told him, eager that it should be he who announced the news and faced his mother’s
disquiet, not me. ‘And don’t just procrastinate and let them find out through a newspaper. You’re unbelievable. You’re like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand. Well,
I tell you, I’m not getting the blame for this one while you walk quietly by smirking.’

Our families had been extremely close and had known each other for as long as I could remember. Mick’s father was my grandfather’s godson and both our mums are called Sally. However,
despite all this, I was always a little bit nervous around his mum near expedition times. This had all started when, aged sixteen, Mick and I had announced that we were saving up to do a parachute
jump together and we were off the next day. For some reason, this wasn’t Mick’s fault but mine. In the Crosthwaite household it had somehow become accepted wisdom that it was always
unreliable Bear who got honest Mick into dangerous situations. They bought into it every time.

The parachute jump, unsuitable girls, the army, Everest – to this day, somehow, it is all my fault.

Nigel Thompson
lives not much more than 100 yards away from our barge on the Thames in London. He knew Shara first, and shared a house with her while we were going out.
But since then he has become a close of friend of mine as well. We eat far too many Danish pastries together in our local square, laugh lots and talk about Hussein and Mohammed, the local
curry-house waiters, on a daily basis. He has the wickedest sense of humour of anyone I know, and a vulnerability that is gorgeous.

What is it that makes some people get along? Well, we laugh at the same things, we laugh easily. I think that’s important. But there’s more to it than that. We’re comfortable
together, and that’s a good thing in a friend. Nige is also godfather to our little son, Jesse.

He has always had a passion for sailing and boats, and was a fanatical rower at both school and university. Despite my being a bit suspicious of his worryingly high level of interest in
navigational gadgets, his favourite pastime was getting into trouble in little boats – and naturally, as so often happens with the sea, this made us the best of boating buddies.

I have been to more boat shows with Nige than with anyone else, and have talked more with him about RIBs than is healthy. I knew he had never tasted the extreme environments that the expedition
would encounter to such a degree before but he had this latent hunger to do more with his life, to be a bit different. His knowledge, his energy, his enthusiasm to be part of this adventure would,
I knew, make Nige the most lovely of people to share the dream with.

I will never forget one particular day at the London Boat Show with Nige. We had been wandering around, chatting to as many different RIB builders and designers as possible. I was beginning to
flag, but not Nige. He was in full swing.

‘But can the sheer bow still allow sufficient water clearance in a following sea?’ he would ask. And they would be off. Talking terms I could hardly understand. I needed some

‘Nige, let’s come back here later maybe?’ I suggested.

He reluctantly agreed; the boat-builder reached out to shake his hand and passed him his business card.

‘If I can ever help in any way, any advice, whatever it is, just let me know. If you are really going to do this expedition, you need the best RIB ever built. Just give me a

Nige thanked him. There was a pause as the designer waited for his response. Nige fumbled. Finally, he reached into his pocket, pulled out one of his property surveyor business cards and handed
that over.

‘Likewise,’ he said, ‘if I can ever offer
any help with . . .’ He paused ‘. . . with buying a shopping centre. Just let me know,’ he finished
buoyantly. The man stood bewildered as we walked away. Shopping centre? What the hell was he on about?

Nige’s sense of humour never faltered. In the cold times ahead, when he began to suffer frostbite in his feet as we emerged from the Icelandic storm, he still managed to mumble to me over
the wind, ‘How do you think Mohammed the curry waiter would cope with this right now, right here, balancing forty poppadoms on his trolley?’

I asked Nige right at the start if he would join the expedition, and he didn’t hesitate. He was working for Lunson Mitchenall, a firm of London surveyors. But this was his chance to do
something more, something extraordinary, and he knew it. Most important, he went for it, and that’s not always easy to do.

For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of these adventures is that they can become a genuinely life-changing experience. I’ve seen it so often. It gives people pride. It may be very
quiet but it’s there. And it’s a great thing to see.

Right from the start, Nige proved a huge support to me. We discussed the expedition endlessly, and he helped me prepare the brochures that we sent out to prospective sponsors. He would stay up
late at home on weeknights to print out another batch for me. They’d always be dropped off at the barge by morning. I know that I would never have got the expedition off the ground without

It was with Nige that I’d spend hours gathering information, constantly weighing up the pros and cons of routes, boat designs, equipment and every aspect of the expedition. Some of what we
were doing as a team was new to him, and he was one of two team members who had not had the benefit of a military training, but as time went on he responded and picked things up remarkably

My nature is to speak my mind – I always have. I dislike petty jibes or undertones, I would prefer someone to say what they mean up front. It comes from having an older sister. I think
it’s best to try to be honest and clear the air, even if it makes us very vulnerable. What matters is that I know everyone in the long term appreciates honesty.

One evening I felt Nige was being difficult about something and I just came out with it. ‘What’s up, Nige? Why did you say that?’ He mumbled something and we carried on, and to
be honest I forgot all about it. Until three o’clock the following morning, that is, when Nige rang to say he couldn’t sleep because he’d been worrying about what he’d said.
He was sorry and hadn’t meant it. I told him it was fine, it was nothing – it wasn’t. I was impressed though. That sort of thing is not always easy to do. But Nige is that kind of
sensitive, endearing person. He makes the calls we all so often put off. I knew he would be an important man to have on board.

Charlie Laing
was a year ahead of me at school. We’d always known each other and got along pretty well, but we’d never been close friends. I probably only
saw him twice during the ten years that had passed since we had left, maybe across the room at a party.

Then he telephoned me out of the blue. Shara and I were living in Chamonix, in the Alps, at the time, and Charlie had gone to considerable lengths to get our telephone number. He asked if he
could meet me to talk about this next expedition and said he would email over his CV. Since school he had become a freelance cameraman, and had put together an impressive portfolio: among other
projects, he’d worked on
Tonight with Trevor McDonald
Stars in their Eyes
and had produced a twelve-part documentary on the eccentric side of American life.

When Charlie called I was frantically busy travelling around doing talks to companies and then racing back to France to be with Shara. I hardly ever had much time in London. But he insisted.

‘I’ll meet you at Gatwick for a coffee,’ he suggested.

I was impressed, and we eventually met at Finnegan’s Bar at the airport. I told him about my plan to try to cross the North Atlantic but said I had already made a commitment to another

‘I’ve got to be honest with you,’ I said. ‘This other guy is the most likely to be our cameraman. He’s hugely experienced and fired-up and it looks ninety-nine per
cent certain that he’s going to come along. I’m sorry, buddy, but it’s gone.’

Charlie said he understood. ‘Just keep me in mind,’ he added as we said goodbye.

He rang me every week from then on. ‘Any changes?’ he would ask . . . again.

I’d tell him nothing had changed, and I would hear the disappointment in his voice.

Then, in October 2002, complications arose in the arrangements with our original cameraman, Will Ingham. It became clear that the production company due to film the expedition couldn’t now
pay him for his time, and at that stage we were in no position to pay him a market-related fee ourselves. The expedition bank account that Nige had helped me set up still had zero in it. Not one
measly penny. We couldn’t make any sort of commitment to a cameraman now without the support of a production company; I mean, we didn’t even have the funds for a lifejacket.

On top of this, something didn’t feel quite right. I felt uneasy with the idea of paying anyone to join the expedition. People had to want to be aboard our RIB. It wasn’t about the
money. This couldn’t be a job – I wanted it to be someone’s everything.

In that sense Charlie was our man. He was the one who had chased me and chivvied me. I called him soon after Christmas and asked if he was still keen on the idea. It would be unpaid, and would
cost him the best part of six months’ work. I’d pay for everything for him on the expedition – kit, flights, etc. – but his time and expertise would have to be for free. It
was all or nothing.

I promised myself that if he agreed to come under those conditions, I would make it up to him if I could afford it when the time came and would buy him the smartest camera available as a
present. In the end, I could afford it – just – and I hope that Charlie’s commitment to us paid off for him too. Certainly the money I shelled out on that camera was the best
I’ve spent in a long time.

Just like Nige, Charlie leaped at the chance. He didn’t hesitate for a moment. I liked that. He had been determined enough to hunt me down in Chamonix, resolved enough to meet me at
Gatwick and gutsy enough to keep asking. It worked.

Charlie might have had little knowledge of the ocean, or much real experience with boats, but he compensated with enthusiasm and grittiness. He was like a sponge, so eager to learn and master
new skills. I’d catch him reading books on rough-water boat-handling and asking Nige endless questions about navigating in the fog that we knew would be so prevalent in the Labrador Sea.
Whatever it was, he wanted to know – from EPIRB frequencies and emergency call-out procedures to knots and magnetic variations. Above all, he seemed to get a real buzz out of everything.

I remember one specific moment during the sea trials when I looked across the boat and saw him just grinning to himself. He was loving every moment.

Charlie recalls:

I had just got back from Australia, and I heard about Bear’s plans. I wanted more than anything to be involved and thought I would give him a call and see what happened.
I had no idea what to expect because I had only ever been on a yacht off the coast of Africa, but I just had the feeling it would be amazing.

In selecting Mick, Nige and Charlie, I suppose I had essentially based my choice on character, people I knew well, people in whom I had trust, people who knew me and who I felt would bond
together. Really, they were my mates.

The only exception to this rule of thumb was my choice of engineer. There was a brief and pretty desperate period when we thought Mick could be the engineer. This was mainly because he was
interested in tractors. Fortunately for all concerned, this folly evaporated like mist in the morning sun when I caught him failing to jump-start his old 1940s tractor down a hill, with clouds of
smoke billowing out. ‘Mick, I love you,’ I told him, ‘but we need a professional.’

As the plans gained momentum it became blatantly obvious that for a boat that was going to be single-engined, due to the sheer distance we were going to be travelling and hence the limitations
on the amount of fuel we could carry, finding a professional engineer was critical. That one engine would be our lifeline – literally – and without it working, it mattered very little
how big and brave our team was.

I wasn’t used to having to rely so heavily on machinery – before, it was the human factor that had been critical on high mountains. But this time, keeping that precious sole engine
working was going to be the most important job on the expedition. I needed somebody who could keep it working in what would possibly be the worst conditions such an engine had ever been in.

Mick and I had both served in the armed forces, and it became clear that it made sense to try to involve the Royal Navy.

I approached a naval friend, Captain Willie Pennefather. He put me in touch with the navy’s PR team, who seemed to get right behind us; and, with the promise of the main front slot at the
Schroders London Boat Show assured, we had some pulling power for them as well. But it was more than that. If the expedition proved successful, the navy’s involvement would demonstrate its
core values of adventure, teamwork and professionalism. So we formed an agreement whereby we would take a Royal Navy engineer with us as one of the crew.

BOOK: Bear Grylls
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