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Bromance in Switzerland: Bear Grylls Remembers Filming ‘Running Wild’ with Roger Federer 

It took awhile, but Bear Grylls eventually convinced legendary Swiss tennis player Roger Federer to join him for an episode of Running Wild. Bear wrote in his 2021 autobiography Never Give Up that Roger had turned the show down many times, always promising to do it when he retired.

However, when Bear realized that he and Roger were in Switzerland at the same time, he convinced Roger to take a chance and go on an adventure in the Swiss mountains. Bear and Roger met up in the snowy Swiss Alps in mid-winter, and the episode was broadcast in season 4 episode 7 of Running Wild back in 2018.

A Tennis Champion with the Balance of a Bird

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The episode started with Roger driving to meet Bear and admitting that he was nervous. “I might look like a tough guy on the tennis courts, but I’m actually very scared of a lot of things in life,” he said. “There’s gonna be scary moments for me.”

Roger says he loves hikes and the wild but he’s not a natural thrill-seeker. He added, “my thrill is playing big matches. I don’t need the thrill besides that.”

When they met, Bear told Roger they’d drop down a frozen waterfall into an icy gorge and head about six miles west through some challenging terrain. They “salvaged” a few things from Roger’s car – including tennis rackets and a rag soaked with some petrol for the fire.

Bear then showed Roger how to put crampons on for grip in the ice. The first challenge was to descend the waterfall on ropes. Roger found it tough, especially on his hands. “I have done a lot of things in life, but nothing’s like that. That was something else, this is something I’m never going to forget,” he said afterwards.

Bear said that this was not an easy feat for a rookie new to ice climbing. “Normally wearing these razor-sharp metal points fixed to mountain boots and navigating sheer sheet ice can be a recipe for some slips and gashed gaiters. But Roger had the balance of a bird and picked up the technique so fast. Before we knew it, we were down into this deep snow chasm and on our way,” Bear later wrote in Never Give Up.

They trudged through deep snow on top of a frozen river at the bottom of the gorge, using Roger’s tennis rackets and some paracord to make snowshoes.

Dead-Fish Eyeball Snack

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Bear and Roger found the remains of a fish under the frozen river, and Bear decided they should eat the eyeballs as a little snack “for proteins and fluids.” They then lit a fire in a cave and cooked up some fish broth and reindeer moss, while talking about life and Roger’s career and family (he has four children, with two sets of twins). 

Roger said he lost his first-ever tennis match but that it’s okay to fail sometimes. “You always regret the things you didn’t do in life, so I felt like I dreamt big at a young age,” he said.

Roger then had to pee to put the fire out, which Bear later called “the ultimate bonding moment for any bromance.”

To get out of the gorge, Bear threaded some paracord through a tennis ball. Roger had to hit the ball to get it around a tree. He eventually got it and then Bear added a jumar device to the rope so they could use it to climb out.

Tiny Tennis in the Snow

Bear had a crafty plan up his sleeve for the last part of the journey and waited to divulge it until a moment when they were in five feet of snow on a precipice and Roger was “tired, shaking a little with cold and fear, and could hardly feel his fingers.” It was then that Bear challenged him to a game of mini table tennis.

Bear had a mini ping-pong table in his backpack and quietly admitted to the camera that he had been practicing on this mini table for months – as the mini table sets are so tricky to play on.

Bear was soon winning 7-3 but then Roger started to catch up. “I hadn’t anticipated this happening so quickly, and before I knew it we were 7-7, then 9-9,” said Bear. Sadly, after an epic final rally, Bear missed a shot. Game, set, and match to Roger Federer.

On Finding Energy in Nature and Meeting Your Hero

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Roger said he loved the whole adventure. “I really believe that actually going into nature gives me energy and power,” he said. “It was a beautiful thing, and I am so happy I was able to do it. It was an experience of a lifetime for me.”

Bear said the journey with Roger was amazing. “He was the consummate gentleman throughout, despite me tearing his new Mercedes apart to gather supplies and fuel that we might need on the trip, and he threw himself into everything,” Bear wrote in Never Give Up.

“They often say you must never meet your hero, but I tell you that in this case, it really lived up to expectations, and this will be a special one for me,” Bear said.

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