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Mini interview—Ben Fogle talks Everest, the healing power of nature and the most powerful travel book he's ever read

After trekking Nepal’s Annapurna Base Camp I became obsessed with reading books and researching anyone who’s climbed Everest—from the first woman to summit—to modern day takes on the perilous journey, each and everyone one is as fascinating as the last. Currently I’m making my way through Sir Edmund Hilary’s View From the Summit but a few months back it was Up: My Life’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Ben Fogle. 

ben fogle in the Himalayas
Ben Fogle courtesy of @benfogle

Ben Fogle rose to fame for appearing on Castaway, a UK TV documentary about a group of strangers who lived on a remote island off the coast of Scotland. The show followed the group of 36 men, women and children for a whole year in a kind of radical experiment observing the interactions between people and nature. Ben's since gone on to present numerous TV shows as well as climb Everest and many more peaks in the eleven years spanning the end of the show. I recently got the chance to talk to him about his adventures and decided on a quick fire round of questions all about travel, here goes…

Country you most want to visit once travel restrictions are lifted?

I can’t wait to get to the mountains of Austria. I’ve been visiting for 15 years and it’s seriously my happy place.

Coldest water you’ve ever swum in? 

Antarctica and in the Arctic. I jumped into a hole cut in the ice on Svalbard—an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole and one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas. The outside temperature was minus 20.

Desert island companion?

Jurgen Klopp, what a man! I have a man crush on him—he’s kind and big hearted but also a do-er, a man that gets things done. 

Your travel must have?

A pocketknife is key. I don’t always get to travel with one as I only ever fly with hand luggage now, but I’ve got some lovely knives, handmade by artisans. 

Last travel book you read?

Cry of the Kalahari by Delia and Mark Owens. Delia Owen also wrote Where the Crawdads Sing which is probably one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. 

Where The Crawdads Sing
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, photo courtesy of @authordeliaowens

You seem to gravitate towards remote places, what is it about being alone surrounded by nature that inspires you?

I love solitude and isolation. That’s not to say I am not a social person, I enjoy company and people but there is something very powerful about remote places. Nature is healing, it’s good for the heart and the soul. 

Do you like climbing UK mountains?

I’ve climbed all of the UKs big peaks and I’ve been up Ben Nevis a handful of times both in winter and summer. It’s a beautiful climb but also one to be respected. Make sure you’re properly kitted and prepared.

Would you consider climbing Everest again? 

Everest was a lifelong dream. Im not someone to revisit things time and time again. The climb was a magical, life changing experience and I wouldn’t want to affect my memoirs. Maybe K2 next time. 

What’s the most poignant memory from your journey to the top of Everest?

To be so close to nature. It’s a thin place in every sense of the word. I had a powerful experience on that mountain that has helped shaped who I am. The summit was magical but for me the climb was the journey and as poignant as the destination.

You climbed Everest with the incredible Kenton Cool (one of Britain's leading alpine and high altitude climbers), what’s the last text exchange you guys had?

He’s currently stuck in Nepal having summited Everest for the 15th time. We chatted about another mountain…

Kenton Cool at the summit of Everest
Kenton Cool at the summit of Everest for the 15th time, image courtesy of @kentoncool

Ben Fogle has teamed up with the Ocean Conservation Trust and Plymouth Gin to encourage people to pick up five pieces of litter from Britain’s beaches this summer.

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