EXMOOR resident Sir Ranulph Fiennes is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest living explorers, and despite having already undertaken a double heart bypass and lost the tips of the fingers on one of his hands to frostbite, the 72-year-old is far from done from taking on nature.

Sir Ranulph is aiming to become the first person to cross both polar ice caps and reach the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Having already completed Everest (Asia), Kilimanjaro (Africa) and Elbrus (Europe), between August and May next year Sir Ranulph will attempt to climb Mount Carstensz in New Guinea (Australasia), Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in Argentina and finally Denali, the highest peak in North America and one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains to climb.

He will be taking on the challenge to raise money for Marie Curie, a cause close to his heart.

In an exclusive interview, Sir Ranulph talks about what it takes to tackle mountains, how he motivates himself and training on his beloved Exmoor.

Somerset County Gazette: Why is Exmoor such an ideal place for you to train?

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: It is brilliant here, Exmoor is just the best place in the world.

It is hilly, which is exactly what you want for training purposes.

Society: I have read you train by running for two hours everyday around Exmoor.

SRF: I did, now it is more like one hour's running. In fact around 15 years ago running became jogging, and about three years ago jogging became shuffling but I still train every day.

SCG: So with this latest challenge, without trying to be rude, you are 72 and it is fair to say your health has deteriorated, how confident are you confident of completing these four peaks?

SRF: Well I do think luck will come into it with the weather, particularly on Denali, where the weather can completely stop an expedition, no matter how good or young the group may be.

I will keep going but there is no denying I am very slow compared to 40 years ago. That leads to complications, you have to plan more carefully because you want to avoid being in the wrong place when it gets dark, but at the same time you don't want to be caught in a dangerous area during the day when the snow is making the sun unstable.

SCG: Of the four peaks left to take on, is there one you are particularly looking forward that stands out from the others?

SRF: Whichever one turns out to be the easiest! Denali is the one I am least looking forward to and we have that until last. I have already failed to reach the peak once so it is an enemy I know well.

Even in the very best year it has a 50 per cent success rate - but in May when I tried to take it on, of all the international people who attempted to get up there, the success rate was just 18 per cent. I find it more difficult than Everest.

SCG: When did you first get the bug for adventure?

SRF: Well I never had a bug for mountaineering - but I started taking on challenges with a South African chap called Charlie Burton, we would spur each other on and wanted to start breaking records in the 1960's.

We became the first ever human beings to reach both poles and cross both ice caps by surface travel. Crossing ice caps is twice as difficult as reaching the poles because it is twice as far, but we broke a huge amount of records in one go.

We also became the first human beings to travel around the earth's vertical surface, it is a feat that has never been repeated by anybody, so more people have walked on the moon. But, it didn't involve any climbing.

But later in the 1990's we were still having trouble with other contenders trying to break records - nearly all of whom were Norwegian.

SCG: Competition is big factor for you when taking on these challenges?

SRF: You are putting it mildly. In the 1970's and 80's our group included two people from North of Aberdeen who had a 90ft antenna in their vegetable patch just listening in on what the Norwegians were up to planning and I wouldn't be surprised if it were the same the other way round.

In 2004 it became clear that the new record people were going for was the first person, male or female, to cross both ice caps and climb Everest.

There were a few people in the world who had done the ice caps by then - so there was now a competition, who could get up Everest first?

I was lucky enough on my third attempt to the top before the other two did. Once I completed that in 2009 I thought to myself: 'That's it', I can safely retire, I am an old age pensioner and I don't like climbing anyway.

I continued taking on endurance challenges but I thought my mountaineering days were over.

I wish I hadn't stopped climbing because if I was attempting this challenge a few years ago it would have been a lot easier. But I hadn't realised that the big thing internationally was to cross both ice caps and not just Everest but all seven of the highest peaks on each continent - and there are potentially five people in the world who could do it first.

SCG: Can you try and explain the feeling you get when you take the final step and realise you have broken a record or done something no-one has ever done before?

SRF: The moment when that was greatest was during the last two weeks during our attempt to travel around the world vertically.

Without flying one metre, we travelled 52,000 miles and managed to arrive back in Greenwich, within two days of the date I had planned with my wife ten years earlier.

That trip took seven years of planning and another three years doing it - so that is ten years out of our lives. In the very last two weeks it was likely to fail, as we needed a ship to save us somewhere in the moving sea ice north of Greenland.

In those days of course there was no GPS or Sat-Nav, and for eight months all we had experienced was just whiteness, the sea and the rumble of breaking ice all around us. So when we suddenly saw these two little matchsticks in the distance and we realised it was the masts of the ship 22 miles away, we knew we could complete our journey - that was the greatest moment of all.

SCG: And why is Marie Curie a charity so close to your heart?

SRF: About 12 years ago on Exmoor my wife Ginny got cancer of the stomach and so moved down to NHS Exeter, which is a wonderful place.

It is a big hospital which has got its own hospice and it was there I first experienced the work of the Marie Curie nurses. They were so amazingly helpful at a really difficult time, and I wanted to do something to repay them.

This lifetime of challenges has enabled Sir Ranulph to raise £18m in total for charity and he aims to raise £20m for good causes in his lifetime.

To support Sir Ranulph’s Global Reach Challenge in aid of Marie Curie go to www.justgiving.com/Ranulph.

For more information on Marie Curie and Sir Ranulph’s support visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/ranulph.