Bear Grylls crawls through Mount Borradile in Australia (Pic: Discovery)
WRESTLING lions, climbing Everest and jumping out of planes are all child’s play for TV hardman Bear Grylls, but trying to propose to his girlfriend made his teeth chatter and left him unable to speak.
Blushing at the memory, the former SAS man turned TV adventurer admits: “It was 9am on a cold Monday morning on the Atlantic coast in Spain, and Shara and I were skinny dipping.
“I got down on one knee, got half a sentence out and then a huge wave took me and rolled me up the beach. So I tried a second time.
“She was laughing, but she said ‘yes’.
“We’ve been married 11 years now and I really lucked out with her. I probably didn’t really know her before we got married. I liked the look of her, loved her, but didn’t really know her. She has been amazing.”
Bear and wife Shara
Living with a man who cheerfully admits he has cheated death at least 40 times during adventures in the remotest corners of the planet cannot be easy.
Shara has to wait at home with children Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry while he sets off to survive in the most inhospitable environments on Earth armed with little more than a smile.
So the 37-year-old Man vs Wild star spares her the gorier details.
He said: “She has lived with it for a long time, but I don’t tell her a lot about it.
“When I get home I always strip off my filthy clothes and jump in the bath. She winces when she sees all the bruises and scrapes I have got on my body.
“If she does watch the programmes she’ll wince, but she much prefers Sex and the City anyway.”
For Grylls, each day is a boy’s own adventure. A TV star at home and in America, he is also Chief Scout – a post of which he is extremely proud.
Bear Grylls slides down a rock face in Montana, USA
Bear catches and eats a frog in Hainan Island, China
Scouting inspired him into the life he now leads, but he was a difficult child. His Tory MP father was often away and young Grylls craved attention which led to bad behaviour at school.
In one incident, he bit a boy so hard he drew blood. He said: “I was always getting into scrapes and learning the hard way how to get out of them.
“I don’t know why I was difficult. My mum said I would end up as an assassin, John the Baptist or Robin Hood and I took that as a bit of a compliment. I have mellowed over the years.
“I wanted attention, but I wasn’t really that bad just a little bit troublesome in my younger years.”
Later, he went to a private prep school and then on to Eton where bullying was rife. “There was this guy who was incredibly strong and was always high on glue sniffing,” he remembers.
“Once I was hiding from him in a cupboard and he opened the door, grabbed me and threw me across the room. I had my head flushed down the loo loads of times, we all did. I was lifted up by my underpants and put on pegs on the back of doors. You had to buy underpants that were really thin, so they would rip if they tried to do that.”
Most Eton boys enter the Army via officer training at Sandhurst.
Not Grylls. His love of mountaineering and outdoor life spurred him to join the SAS as an ordinary soldier. After failing the gruelling selection procedure once, he finally managed to get into the elite regiment as a reservist.
“A lot of my friends went off to join a smart regiment as an officer but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to join at the bottom as a soldier, not as an officer.
“I got a lot of stick to start with from the other recruits but that’s life and you just get on with it.
“If you pass you are there on your own merit regardless of whether you are white or black speak like this or speak like that – you’ve earned it.”
Like many SAS veterans, Grylls is cagey about what action he saw.
“I got posted twice in North Africa but I can’t talk about that,” he says. “What we did there was nothing like what the guys are doing now. What was a kind of focusing thing for us is routine for them now. Friends are serving in Afghanistan and all over the place and doing incredible things.
“What we did, even though we were excited at the time, doesn’t compare.”
But after four and a half years with the regiment a routine parachute jump very nearly killed him.
“It was 40,000ft over the desert in southern Africa,” he says. “It was getting dark and the canopy ripped and I should have cut it away and used the reserve, but I panicked.
I thought I could control it but I was losing height. Before you know it I had smacked into the ground on my back.
“I broke three vertebrae in my back but I was very lucky and it could have been way, way worse.”
Grylls, sipping water in a fashionable London hotel, is now a shining beacon of positive attitudes, but he admits that struggling to get well again after the accident was the lowest point in his life.
“It was a really dark time,” he says quietly. “People say you must be very positive to go from hospital to climbing Everest. But it wasn’t like that. It was a bad time of trying to build hope and confidence, and movement.
“The lowest point came a few months after, the sympathy has died down and you are still trying to get up and it still hurts. And you don’t know what you will ever be able to do.
“It wasn’t a great time…”
In his new book Mud, Sweat And Tears, Grylls details how he eventually climbed out of his hospital bed and then carried on climbing up Everest, before venturing into Antarctica.
But becoming a TV presenter was the biggest challenge he faced.
Bear Grylls using his ladder in a waterfall in Montana, USA
He concentrates in Hainan, China
Bear jumps through a window of a ruined building
When approached by Channel 4 he initially turned down the job.
He says: “I said no three times. I didn’t want to be a smiley TV presenter but they said they wanted the mud, the guts, the real thing.
“I got the fear two days before, I was so far out of my comfort zone. But my wife said why not try to do it then you know what you are saying no to.
“Shooting rapids, chasing snakes and climbing cliffs, it was everything I loved. It is a total privilege and I think what an idiot I was that I almost said no.”