‘I thought, why not ski down Everest?’ extreme explorer Tormod Granheim said as he stood casually regaling some of his most intrepid tales.
MailOnline Travel trekked to Finse, a remote and freezing part of Norway only accessible by train or skis, recently to attend a meeting of the world’s greatest explorers.
Along with Tormod, we met the twins who climbed the seven highest mountains on each continent and both poles by the age of 23, the woman who holds the record for going to the South Pole the most times and the man who found Titanic’s wheel at the bottom of the ocean.
Read on for exclusive insights into their incredible, and very inspiring, adventures…
Diver Rory Golden discovered the Titanic’s wheel
Diver Rory Golden became the first Irishman to visit the site of RMS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland in August 2000 (above, seen filming in the North Atlantic above the Titanic site in August 2005)
On his expedition to the wreck, which lays nearly 12,000 feet down on the ocean floor, he spotted and recovered the main ship’s wheel, buried under debris
Golden told MailOnline Travel that amazingly, he saw the wheel in the last 30 minutes of a 12-hour dive in a specially designed, deep-sea submersible vehicle, which he remembers being ‘cramped’ and ‘freezing’
Diver Rory Golden became the first Irishman to visit the site of RMS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland in August 2000.
On his expedition to the wreck, which lays nearly 12,000 feet down on the ocean floor, he spotted and recovered the main ship’s wheel, buried under debris.
Golden told MailOnline Travel that amazingly, he saw the wheel in the last 30 minutes of a 12-hour dive in a specially-designed, deep-sea submersible vehicle, which he remembers being ‘cramped’ and ‘freezing’.
Recalling the monumental discovery, he said: ‘We took one last look along the Officer’s Deck and I spotted a semi-circular shape sticking out of a pile of debris. I guessed, correctly as it transpired, that this was the remains of the main ship wheel.
More recently Golden was a member of the Bezos Expeditions F-1 Engine Recovery Team – masterminded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos – which salvaged five Apollo F-1 rocket engines from 13,800 feet down in the North Atlantic
‘It comprised of the central hub, three stumps of the timber spokes, the A-frame it was attached to and the shaft that had been connected to the telemotor in the wheelhouse.’
So many expeditions had taken place before, and no one had seen the wheel. So, to actually spot it and then be the first person to touch it after we surfaced was quite a special moment
Golden described his finding as an ‘epic and spine tingling moment’.
He added: ‘So many expeditions had taken place before, and no one had seen the wheel. So, to actually spot it and then be the first person to touch it after we surfaced was quite a special moment, especially as Captain Smith was probably the last one to hold it before me.’
More recently he was a member of the Bezos Expeditions F-1 Engine Recovery Team – masterminded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos – which salvaged five Apollo F-1 rocket engines from 13,800 feet down in the North Atlantic.
One of these engines was from Apollo 11, which launched a man to the moon in 1969.
Talking about the explorers meet-up in Norway, known as Expedition Finse, Rory said: ‘It’s been great meeting so many inspiring people. I’ve never been before but it’s been fabulous. People so often want to talk to me about Titanic but I want to hear about their incredible stories more!’
Record-breaking twins, Tashi and Nungshi Malik, 25, completed the Explorers Grand Slam
Record-breakers: Tashi and Nungshi Malik became the first female twins to summit Mount Everest on May 19 in 2013
All the way to the top: The sisters seen smiling on the top of Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak at 274,100 feet
Twins Tashi and Nungshi Malik broke the record for being the youngest people – and first twins – to climb the highest peaks on each continent, including Everest, and ski to the North and South Poles.
They completed the gruelling challenge, known as the Explorers Grand Slam, at the tender age of 23.
Revealing how their passion for mountaineering came about, Nungshi said: ‘Our dad was in the military and he fostered the belief in learning from what’s around us.
The boy fell down a crevice and his rope snapped. It was hard carrying on after witnessing that
‘Our first exposure of the mountains was in 2009 when our father asked what we wanted to do in life. We said we wanted to do “everything”.
‘He advised that we do a mountaineering course and learn about ourselves a lot more.’
The girls said the challenge was mentally and physically draining and they spent years training for their epic challenge.
They said their experience everyday was ‘very tragic’ and when they were on Everest they saw a young climber who was barely 20 years old fall to his death.
Nungshi said: ‘The boy fell down a crevice and his rope snapped. It was hard carrying on after witnessing that.’
Tashi and Nungshi Malik, pictured with Swedish explorer Anders Stävhag, climbed the highest mountains on each continent and trekked to both poles at the tender age of 23
Tashi says her and her sister’s record-breaking adventure brought them closer together.
She said: ‘For us climbing mountains is a great journey. This togetherness has made us stronger. We’ve seen so much. Getting outdoors is the best way to learn about yourself.’
The girls, from North India, have now set up a foundation, which promotes empowerment and outdoor education, in a bid to help young Indian women fight gender inequality.
Tormod Granheim skied down Everest and completed a one-day ascent
Tormod Granheim from Norway summited Everest in just one day and pushed the boundaries even further by deciding to make history as the first to ski down the North Face of the awe-inspiring peak
The most nail-biting moment occurs when Granheim teeters on the edge of a 60-degree slope with powdery snow falling under his skis as he prepares to dive down
A clip shows Granheim niftily navigating Everest’s North Col with the sharp-edged pass carved by glaciers visible
Video footage captures Granheim’s skiing adventure down Everest, with a group of mountaineers seen ahead
Tormod Granheim made history on May 16, 2006, when he took the plunge and skied down Everest.
He also managed to summit the peak in one day. He rapidly ascended the mountain from the Tibetan side, scarpering up from Advanced Base Camp – 20,997 feet above sea level – to the 29,028ft summit.
The gruelling trek, known as the Mallory route, usually takes climbers around five days to complete.
To do this project was a big dream for me and my friend Tomas. I thought it would be the best day of my life but it wasn’t
However, the adventurer revealed during Expedition Finse that his ‘dream’ adventure soon turned into a nightmare when his Swedish skiing companion, Tomas Olsson, fell to his death while making the nail-biting descent.
Recalling the chain of events, Granheim, 42, said: ‘We managed to climb Everest with our skis from the Tibetan side in a day to the summit.
‘It’s like magic when you reach the top and so beautiful you just want to stay up there.
‘But we also had the urge to ski off the summit. We managed to ski down and follow the Great Couloir, negotiating our way through the crevices.
‘We passed a bunch of mountaineers and they didn’t know what to make of us. They thought we were crazy.
Extreme Norwegian skier Tormod Granheim made history when he skied down Everest. He is seen above descending L’Aiguille du Midi (12,600 feet) in the French Alp’s Mont Blanc massif
Speaking at Expedition Finse about his Everest expedition, Tormod said: ‘To do this project was a big dream. I thought it would be the best day of my life but it wasn’t’
‘To do this project was a big dream for me and my friend Tomas. I thought it would be the best day of my life but it wasn’t. At about 27,000 feet my friend fell off the mountain and of course he didn’t make it.’
While he started his story with a cheeky smile and a sparkle in his eye, Granheim suddenly took a more grave tone as he touched on the traumatic day, adding that ‘it was really tricky to move on from the experience’.
With no way of being rescued from the high-altitude mountainside, Granheim had to descend the slopes of Everest alone.
When he reached lower ground he immediately told his support team about the fatal accident. Amazingly they managed to locate Tomas’ body four days later in the snow and they arranged for the first ever helicopter rescue from Everest’s Tibetan side.
Apparently the Swede had been rappelling down a 150-foot rock cliff at around 27,887 feet when a snow anchor broke off and he slid down the wall and vanished from view.
Despite the devastating incident on May 16, 2006, Granheim didn’t put his daredevil activities to bed.
Most recently he made headlines for being the first Norwegian to summit all 82 peaks of 13,123 feet (4,000 metres) or above in the Alps.
Hannah Mckeand holds the title for the most South Pole crossings
Snow queen: Brit Hannah McKeand (pictured middle), 43, set the record in 2006 for the fastest journey to the South Pole and she has been back numerous times since
Leading the way: Today the Brit guides expeditions to the area and most recently she helped set up an Emperor Penguin base
Brit Hannah McKeand, 43, set the record in 2006 for the fastest journey to the South Pole. She completed the 600-nautical-mile journey solo in just 39 days, nine hours and 33 minutes.
Although she lost the record in 2016, she still holds the record for skiing to the South Pole more times than anyone in history. Today she guides expeditions to the South Pole and is looked to as an expert around polar exploration.
When she’s off duty, she can be found at home in the warmer climate of Utah.
We saw temperatures of minus 56 degrees Celsius, I couldn’t see anything, just this blank world. One of our team members dropped out with hypothermia
At Expedition Finse the bubbly blonde gave a comical account of how she first got into the world of snow and ice.
In front of a packed-out room, she said: ‘I lived in London, worked in theatre and was really good at walking in high heels. I didn’t even own hiking boots.
‘The whole polar thing didn’t enter my spirit of awareness until my godfather left me some money and said “go have an adventure darling”.
‘I joked one day in the pub I should go to the South Pole. The next thing I knew, my throwaway comment had led to something epic and suddenly I was going somewhere snowy in skis.’
McKeand said her first expedition was a complete shock to the system and she was scared about being a liability to the rest of her team.
Within 24 hours of getting to the Antarctic ice sheet she found herself plunged into a ‘horrifying storm’.
Defrosting: When she’s off duty, McKeand can be found at home in the warmer climate of Utah
She recalled: ‘We saw temperatures of minus 56 degrees Celsius, I couldn’t see anything, just this blank world.
‘One of our team members dropped out with hypothermia and we quickly learned this was a dangerous place.’
In the second week of the expedition, McKeand got frost bite and the skin peeled off her chin after she got her neck buff wet while drinking water.
Luckily the wound heeled and she was able to continue with the freezing trek.
Her expedition team made it to the South Pole in 56 days in 2004.
Describing how she felt after voyaging to one of the most remote spots on the planet, McKeand said: ‘I had discovered I belonged in this place.
‘This was the best thing I was good at. I realised I was a new animal in a new place.
‘I was inspired by a record that had been set to the South Pole. The following year I got my act together and went after this speed record. I was quickly hooked.
‘I’m very lucky to have the job I do and to feed my knowledge back out. What gives me joy is to be a teacher, to be a protector and to be a guide.’
McKeand said after six treks from the coast to the South Pole over the course of a decade she decided to hang up her skis for a while and most recently helped set up an Emperor Penguin research base in Antarctica.
She has now set up her own company called Polar Expedition Training so she can impart her knowledge to others.
Expedition Finse, Norway’s only expedition festival, has been running for seven years.
It was set up in a bid to create a meeting place for people interested in expeditions and today it attracts explorers from all over the world.
The weekend-long event is held at the remote mountain village area of Finse, which is only accessible by train or skis.
Global gathering: Expedition Finse, Norway’s only expedition festival, has been running for the past seven years – this year it was a sell-out success
It is the same location where the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole trained and it is still used as a training ground by polar explorers today.
During the festival everyone convenes at Finse 1222, the area’s only hotel, which opened in 1909.
During the three-day gathering there are lectures, tutorials and the Shackleton Award of achievement is also presented to an elected explorer.
The frigid climate at Finse is said to mimic that of the South Pole.
One polar explorer at Expedition Finse told MailOnline Travel: ‘If you can tough it out at Finse, you can tough it out anywhere.’
Norwegian Air offers daily flights from London to Bergen or Oslo.
Rooms at Bergen’s Grand Hotel Terminus start from £107 with breakfast included.
While in Bergen, take a ride through the Fjords with Rodne cruises or get mountain-high views by riding the Floibanen funicular.
Trains run daily from Bergen to Finse, with tickets available to book via the NSB.
Single rooms at Finse 1222 start from £125, with doubles at £134.
For more information on places to visit, go to Visit Norway.