top half of the thumb on Tim Jarvis’s right hand is numb. It’s a reminder of how close he came to death on one of his polar explorations. Jarvis and his colleague were separated in a blizzard. The temperature was about minus 50C, and the other bloke had the tent. The strap to the harness Jarvis was using broke and he stopped to fix it, which meant he had to take off three of the four gloves he was wearing. “It was a very serious situation to the point where the forearms more or less up to the elbows were numb,” he says. All he could do was to keep moving. It was the only way to generate body heat. Eventually the feeling did come back everywhere, apart from the thumb, and Jarvis survived to find his colleague. It could easily have ended in tragedy.
But to Jarvis this is what it’s all about. Pushing yourself to your limit to find out what you can achieve. It’s why he has climbed 7000m peaks in the Andes, trekked to the north and south poles and why he is off again in January to try and recreate the survival journey of Ernest Shackleton by travelling 1300km in a wooden rowboat. “It’s pretty exciting to see what you can achieve at the edge of your ability,” he says.
Jarvis feels happiest in the wild. “Quite frankly, in everyday life you feel as though you are chugging along in about second gear,” he says. “I struggle to find enough to challenge me. But when you get out there and do something where there might be a bit of genuine risk, serious risk, involved, you are actually much calmer.”
The only thing that may slow him down is fatherhood. The 45-year-old has two children under the age of three. “I can’t think of a greater tragedy than not seeing them grow up or not being there for them,” he says.
But it’s not as if he expects to die. “If you trust your own ability you don’t really consider that you are not going to make it.”