Die another day

R Pallavi        Print Edition: Apr 15, 2012

Suspended a little below a cliff, you hear something snap. Out of habit, you look first at the valley far below. Then you look up. To your fright, it is the rope succumbing to the constant friction against the stony mountain. For adrenaline and adventure junkies, this is just another day at the office. When your line of work shuttles between life and death, work ethics are about precision, planning and instinct. One man who agrees with this is Ben Fogle. He finds pleasure in calculated risks. The English adventurer came into limelight on the BBC reality show Castaway 2000 which marooned him on the Scottish island of Taransay for a year. Here, hurdles were perceived as challenges and survival was the only silver lining to look for, a philosophy that continues to draw Fogle to the deadliest of terrains.

Such gladiatorial strength akin to heroic valour, has powered him to carry out death-defying stunts with a sense of calm; from salvaging capsized boats in the Atlantic, to escaping crevasses in the South Pole. Today, he doesn't live to tell tales, but to write many more. In an interview with BT More, he reminisces about his recent BBC Entertainment show Year in Adventures and suggests escapades that aren't worth a miss .

The undulating rocky stretch around Moab in Utah puts your riding skills to the test
The undulating rocky stretch around Moab in Utah puts your riding skills to the test
Utah Outback, USA

The wind has played sculptor, and carved out bridges and arches in the desert around Moab in Utah. It now stands as an animated expression in crimson rock. The undulating landscape beckons those who wish to put their athletic proportions to test. Here, Fogle has no path; he just creates his own as he peddles through jerky stone, loose mud and even reptiles. A seemingly endless route keeps him glued to his manoeuverable yet sturdy machine for hours.

Fogle chooses to charge through the varied terrain in a 24-hour race, where he partners with friend and ex-SAS commando Bernie Shrosbree. The prolonged adventure is an exercise in balance and team work and absorbs riders passively into the landscape's changing radiance through phases of the day. Avoid the dusty desert haze of summer and enjoy the Moab's snow sprinkled surface instead.

Crossing the Via Ferrata or the 'iron path' in Italy's Dolomite mountains isn't for the faint hearted
Crossing the Via Ferrata or the 'iron path' in Italy's Dolomite mountains isn't for the faint hearted
Punta Anna, Italy

'Because it's there', George Mallory's reason for climbing the Everest in 1924 ascended the practice of mountaineering to great heights, and turned tough terrains into hiker havens. In Italy too, the passion compels travellers to skip historic cathedrals and fashion streets, and negotiate the Dolomites instead. The Rocky sandstone Alps were nailed in several places and connected by a Via Ferrata, which literally means iron path, for supplying resources to the Italian infantry during the First World War. This has made it ideal for rock climbing, base jumping and hang gliding. For Fogle, the real thrill lies in crossing the Punta Anna Via Ferrata.

At a frightening height of 1,200 metres (much higher than the world's tallest Burj Khalifa tower) lies a steep ridge, about 800 metres long. This airy traverse gently sways in the valley breeze and is unprotected in places, without wires cables and slabs. As he inches through the narrow bridge, he takes vertigo head on. The chills turn into a heroic euphoria as he gradually reaches the summit.

An enthused Fogle before climbing into the depths of a glacier in Iceland
An enthused Fogle before climbing into the depths of a glacier in Iceland

Far from the warmth and surety of everyday, Fogle is being lowered into a volcanic glacier in Iceland. It is cold, dark and he can hear the trickling of a droplet. Scaling volcanic glaciers in Reykjavik, Iceland, maybe an unsettling idea for most, but Fogle considers it 'becoming one with tundra'. Accompanied by his friend and experienced Antarctic explorer, Patrick Woodhead, Fogle makes sure he isn't treading on thin ice. The Arctic white turns dead dark as he scales deep into Icelandic crevasses, and leaves him frost-bitten and snow blind. Here, he evades sharp icicles and focuses his torchlight on marine life frozen in time. In all, an experience that evens out all odds and teaches one why the Arctic should be saved. Fogle comes out a new person, all charged to weather out the night in a carved ice-hole.

SKY DIVING, Australian Outback
With moments of pain, distractions, overcoming fears and accomplishments, adventures mirror our lives. And nothing explains this better than jumping off an airplane. This time, Fogle heads Down Under and attempts his first solo free fall. As he unbuckles the seat belt and pulls back the airplane door to look down, a cluster of clouds hinder his view. In a matter of seconds, the flight of his imagination has takes off.

In an accelerated free fall from 4,500 ft, his body tears through the wind and his mind swings between the extremities of life and death. Soon enough, the barren lands of Bussleton become clearer and a parachute restores normalcy. As his numbed feet touch the ground, he's left with a pounding heart, a bated breath and a sheer sense of happiness that comes with being alive.

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