125 Speaker Series: Ben Fogle

On the 6 May, for the final talk in the 125 Speaker Series, Ben Fogle visited Wycombe Abbey to talk to pupils, parents and staff on the theme of resilience.

It was inspiring to hear first-hand accounts of his many adventures, from rowing the Atlantic and running extreme marathons to swimming with crocodiles. Ben spoke about what motivated him to take on such daring feats and why he found them so rewarding. He emphasised the importance of thorough preparation and putting together a good team, with each member bringing their unique talents to the enterprise. All of his adventures depended on the team around him. Ben also entertained us by explaining how, shortly after setting off to sea, he discovered just how different his attitude to crossing the Atlantic was to James Cracknell’s: he was there to complete the crossing of the Atlantic; double Olympic gold medallist James, was there to compete.

A particular highlight was when he spoke about the challenges he faced when taking on Mount Everest, such as crossing the dreaded Khumba Icefall, and surviving in the death zone when his oxygen supply failed. His dramatic account of these moments of great peril held the audience enthralled, as he challenged us to consider the choices we would have made in such circumstances. Above all, he made us appreciate that not only is it a great physical feat to climb Everest but that it takes a huge amount of mental resilience to deal with setbacks on the mountain, and to continue despite the unbelievably harsh conditions.

As well as telling of his adventures, Ben spoke about his humanitarian and environmental work, and how travelling to far-flung places had made him profoundly aware of the impact of climate change, with no corner of the globe untouched. But he also expressed hope that humanity, and especially young people, would find solutions to these problems.  

Ben encouraged us to push ourselves to our physical and mental limits, and to take on new challenges even if we believe them to be impossible. His central message was about the importance of perseverance.

Felicity, LV

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