"It is one of the symptoms of this age of nerves and hysteria that we magnify everything, that our boasts are frantic and our scares pitiable, that we call a man who plays well at football a hero and that all successes are triumphs."

I quote this cutting from the Sketch newspaper, which followed Shackleton's return from Antarctica in June 1909, in my book Mind over matter published in 1993 on my return from the world's first unassisted crossing of the Antarctic continent.

Although written in 1909 it is astonishing how appropriate it still is today when attitudes to human endeavour are measured largely in terms of success or failure, or the number of points put on the scoreboard, with very little in between. Just 'playing the game' or 'having a go' doesn't seem a good enough reason to challenge oneself anymore and increasingly in our technological age, the value, logic and reasoning behind feats of human endurance and courage are being questioned.

How refreshing therefore, when there are still so many challenges left in the world, at a time when these very qualities need to be developed in our youth, to find a young modern explorer in Cathy O'Dowd pushing her limits 'just for the love of it'. A reason that seems as good as any, and probably better than most.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes


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