Bear Grylls is not an easy man to get hold of.
When he’s not jetting across the world to tackle some of nature’s harshest conditions, the 44-year-old survival expert can be found with his family on a remote island off the coast of Wales, living a life you can only imagine is the real-life equivalent of The Wild Thornberrys (minus the talking animals).
He was able to correspond from a mountain in Switzerland in what could possibly be the most Bear Grylls-esque setting for an interview you could imagine.
Following in the footsteps of Black Mirror’s interactive Bandersnatch episode, You vs Wild has combined technology and the natural world in a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ series, which allows the viewer to navigate Grylls through the jungle with their own instructions, leading to some dangerous outcomes for the ex-soldier.
Facing decisions such as whether to send Grylls swinging across a canyon on a vine Tarzan-style or into the path of a deadly crocodile, the viewer can make life or death decisions from the comfort of their own home.
“We set out with the view of no limits – and with that mind-set we could really plan some crazy stuff,” Grylls explains.
After surviving a free fall accident during his time in the military that left his back broken in three places, Grylls’ outlook on life has been unwaveringly optimistic. He says, “It taught me the simple lesson that life is fragile and that if we are lucky enough to survive we have to get out there and grab life with both hands.”
It’s this infectious optimism that has rubbed off on those who appear on his survival programmes. “The wild doesn’t care who you are, how rich or famous someone is,” reflects Grylls.
“It simply tests us and makes us stronger and more resilient for life.” Celebrities from all walks of life have chosen to join him on challenging expeditions for his series Running Wild with Bear Grylls, from President Barack Obama to Kate Winslet.
Currently filming the fifth series of the show with “an amazing list of guests”, Grylls says the trips they go on “enriches their lives in so many intangible ways. That's why so many of these Hollywood stars love our journeys.”
Grylls’ connection to the wild started at a young age. Describing himself as “quite a shy kid” who loved to climb with his father, Grylls dreamt of climbing Mount Everest. In 1996, he became one of the youngest people to climb the world’s highest peak aged just 23 years old. “To have achieved it whilst [my dad] was still alive meant so much,” he recalls.
“I always wanted to be a climber and a soldier, and I am so proud to have done both to the best of my ability,” he adds.
From climbing into a camel’s carcass to drinking his own urine, Grylls is not afraid to put himself into undesirable situations to lay bare the extremities of survival in the wild.
It’s these severe conditions that are highlighted in one of his latest projects, voicing National Geographic’s wildlife documentary series Hostile Planet.
“It transports viewers to the most severe environments at the worst of times, putting viewers right in the heart of the real drama so you feel immersed with the animals who are struggling to survive, despite all odds,” he says.
Hostile Planet joins the important library of wildlife documentaries boldly showing the devastating effects of global warming and the urgent threat climate change has on the natural world.
“What’s powerful about Hostile Planet is that we never tell viewers about what we must do [to] help stop climate change, instead we show the reality of what life is like for the animals at the front line, struggling to survive in such a rapidly changing world.”
He adds: “It’s either adapt or die - there are no other options. So we, and the animals sharing our gorgeous planet, must persevere despite all odds.”
You vs Wild is now available on Netflix.