IT is only when Sir Ranulph Fiennes starts to reel off what he will be talking about on his current lecture tour that the enormity of his achievements hits home.

Not for nothing is he known as the world’s greatest living explorer.

“It’s basically a presentation of some of the expeditions we’ve done,” said the 74-year-old baronet, former SAS officer and adventurer. “Of course it’s not all of them, there must be well over 40 of them.

“But we’ll be looking at finding lost cities, big jungle expeditions, being with the SAS for a bit, the bravery medal from the Sultan of Oman, the first polar circumnavigation of earth which had never been done by any human before, being the first to both poles - that sort of thing.”

If all that sounds like something from the pages of Boy’s Own, that hardly scratches the surface of a man who has had led one of the most remarkable lives and yet is so matter-of-fact about his achievements.

On the phone he is businesslike, polite and his sharp intellect comes through immediately. He is not one, you suspect, who suffers fools gladly, but he’s definitely someone you would want in your corner when the going gets tough.

It is that steely determination which has seen him conquer Everest - “I was the first OAP to get to the summit” - reach the North and South Pole on foot and complete a total circumnavigation of the earth without flying.

Some of his triumphs have come at a cost. He memorably got severe frostbite in his left hand which led to him having to abandon a solo walk to the North Pole. He would later cut off the affected fingers with a power saw such was the pain. In 2003 he suffered a heart attack but even that and a double by-pass operation didn’t deter him from completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

And yet Sir Ranulph remains very matter-of-fact about it all.

“There was an awful lot of luck,” he said. “And you have to remember that 40 per cent of everything we tried to do to break physical and geographical records has failed. But we consider it a failure even if we break a world record but don’t achieve the final goal.”

As well as drive, determination and sheer bloody mindedness, it would seem that patience is a quality which you need to undertake record breaking expeditions.

“I think a lot of people may think about doing something but don’t get the sponsorship because they don’t try hard enough at the beginning.

“You have got to be dedicated. One expedition alone took my late wife and me working every day for seven years in a sponsored office in London to get 1,900 sponsors together for a single expedition.

“That expedition took seven years to prepare and three years of actual travel to do.”

Having achieved so much you could forgive Sir Ranulph for beginning to to take things easy, but that’s just not his style.

“You are supposed to retire at 65 and I’m nearly 75 and nobody is superhuman; your body gets less good in terms of physical things and you have to accept that,” he said. “But at the moment I’m writing books and giving lectures but the two expeditions that are on the cards I can’t talk about at the moment as we haven’t got the money yet.

“I’ve got to the situation where I tell the person who is planning an expedition ‘I’ll join you when you’ve got your money’.”

Many of Sir Ranulph’s feats have raised vast sums for charity and he has also set up a foundation aimed at helping young British adventurers achieve.

“There are just as many applications now as there were 30 years ago,” he said. “The ones that tend to get the money are the ones that surprise me. If there are weak points in the proposals they are going to get binned.”

A number of his record breaking feats were achieved without the use of modern technology but Sir Ranulph said that he’s not averse to getting hi-tech help.

“If an expedition is setting out to do it the hard way because no one has done it we will walk instead of using machines,” he said. “But if no-one has done it before by whatever means we will use the latest means available at that time.”

So does he think that there are less challenges out there?

“According to National Geographic 78 per cent of the oceans are unexplored and then there’s space, I won’t even start to tell you about space,” he said. “But if you are fairly rugged folk prepared to get gangrene and prepared to suffer pulling heavy weights for 2,000 miles like our group then you are going to be very hard up finding things to do on this earth.”

Given that space remains to a great extent, unexplored, is it something which has ever tempted the great man?

“Oh no, I’m not interested in space,” he said. “I got asked a long time ago but they said that part of it was two years learning Russian in Moscow so I thought ‘to hell with that, there are better things to be doing’.”

An Audience with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the World’s Greatest Living Explorer, Colne Muni, Thursday, September 20. Details from 01282 661234, or