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Bear Grylls Was Naked in Siberia and Lived to Tell the Tale

Before Bear Grylls could teach celebrities like Bradley Cooper, Rita Ora, and Benedict Cumberbatch how to survive in the wild (see Running Wild), he had a lot of practice surviving on his own in many difficult places on the planet. 

Despite many of his adventures being planned to some degree for TV, Bear had a steep learning curve in some of the situations he’s found himself in, and many were truly extreme. One of the most extreme, he says, was Siberia. 

“If you were to ask me the toughest place I’ve had to survive . . . well, that was in one of the coldest, grimmest locations on Earth. Siberia. In winter,” he wrote in his autobiography, Never Give Up.

Extreme Conditions

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Bear says that being in Siberia in December was so “brutally unforgiving” with “harsh, cold, desolate conditions” that it is solidly on his list of toughest places to survive.

“It is a long, long way from anywhere, difficult to get to and, as a survivor, an equally hard place to get out of. It took me to the edge,” wrote Bear in Never Give Up.

Bear says that the average temperature in winter is -25°C (that’s -13°F), and he recalls how on one freezing Siberian night, cameraman Simon Reay showed Bear that the temperature dial on his camera bag had dropped to -42°C (-43.6°F).

Freezing River Crossing

Image by Punnawit Suwuttananun

The next day, while filming a river crossing, it was again bitterly cold.

“I can still see the look of pride on Simon’s face as, shooting the next day, water froze in a matter of seconds on the lens of his underwater camera housing,” says Bear.

At that time, Bear himself says he was naked in minus 35°C (-31°F) trying to smash through the thin ice at the river’s edges in bare feet to reach the fast-flowing main section of the river, so that he could get to the far river bank.

“I am shouting at Simon to keep with me and keep moving. Camera or no camera, we aren’t stopping now,” says Bear, who recalls how they always had to move fast in temperature extremes. There were no second takes for filming. Bear knew he had to get the job done quickly. 

Freezing in shock

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Bear and the team spent 12 days in Siberia, filming for season two of Man vs. Wild, which was broadcast back in 2008.

“I have seen people freeze in shock at their first ice water immersion, and be unable even to say their name, let alone swim naked, break ice, climb a deep snow bank, and then get a fire going with only a fire steel and flint,” says Bear in Never Give Up. “But this sort of thing was so typical of what Man vs. Wild embodied. Adventure survival.”

A Lesson from Nature

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Bear says he learned a valuable lesson during that time about taking risks. “Don’t play the odds for too long, and what you can plan, plan well, do once, and don’t screw up. Or else.”

He adds: “Mother Nature can be very unforgiving. And when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong fast. As they say: nature is like your momma . . . respect her and she will treat you right; disrespect her and she’ll teach you a lesson you won’t ever forget.”

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