A new season of National Geographic’s Running Wild with Bear Grylls kicks off tomorrow night. The host set aside a few minutes to discuss show.
On shows like Running Wild, you make expeditions look so easy. How much planning actually goes into conducting an expedition on TV? How does it differ from the slightly more ambitious ones you do independently?
Ultimately Running Wild is about the guest and getting to know them in a buddy buddy way. The adventure and the wild is always an incredible place to do that, but with remote places come danger always. We work hard as a team to plan a fun, challenging route, that will be achievable for the guest but with good access and safety if needed. We always have to have a back up plan and good comms and infrastructure with the local search and rescue is a key part of that as well.
On a non-Running Wild expedition we can maybe go further afield and push the boundaries a little more, but you have to remember for running wild I am almost always taking rookies in to these places and we have to be respectful of this and their skill level. Having said that, we always aim to take the guests close to their limits whilst always making sure it is empowering and awe inspiring.
When you are trying to survive in Nature, how useful is having a decent understanding of science? If it is useful, can you give an example of how it has helped?
A respect and understanding for nature is the beating heart of all we do. Without it, you die. This is especially pertinent when it comes to weather, remote terrain, and limited access in emergencies. In the wild, we always say, you’ll only screw it up once, and then it is game over.
I like to think the wild is like your momma: respect her, and she’ll treat you right but disrespect her and she’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.
In one of the episodes of Running Wild, you take former Indycar and NASCAR drive Danica Patrick out in the desert. At one point you drink mucky, stagnant water through a portable survival carbon filter. It’s a really cool tool. Do you have any other new tools that exploit modern science?
Almost all of our camping gear and climbing equipment uses modern science to help us survive out there. Whether that’s modern materials on lightweight super long ropes that allow us to be able to safely rappel down huge cliffs, or mini climbing tools to ascend cliffs or fire making equipment that works even underwater. This sort of thing was simply not possible a few hundred years ago.
You conduct some really insightful interviews on your show. Is there a typical point in an expedition where you find people opening up a little more than usual?
The wild always reveals character, and I think when you face a few fears side by side and are tired and hungry, you see the real person. That’s the magic of Running Wild, you see the unguarded side of these stars.
Your profession places you in direct and frequent contact with nature all around the world. Have you noticed any effects of climate change first hand?
Nothing is more important than the fight for our planet. In every episode we make, and on every one of our expeditions, we aim to show not just the beauty of our planet, but how fragile it is too. I’ve spent years in the wild, and it’s often heart breaking to see how rapidly climate change has taken its toll – on both wildlife and the wilderness.
On another show I worked on with Nat Geo called Hostile Planet, we tracked the devastating effect on wildlife all around the world. It was humbling to see the sheer resilience of the animals we followed against such a rapidly changing climate. It’s adapt or die out there.
All over the world, we’re seeing more extreme weather events – especially floods and storms, and in Australia, the devastating bush fires have shocked people in their scale and intensity. These are not just weather events. They’re the effects of the choices we’ve made as a global society over the last century, and it’s impacting on the lives of people, animals, precious habitats, communities and livelihoods. That’s why we need to get better at protecting, preserving and pulling together.