By Stacey Leasca
October 04, 2018
Sir Richard Branson (centre) and former gang leader Karl Lokko (left) as they climb Mont Blanc in the Alps on the final stage of the Virgin Strive Challenge.
Credit: Joe Giddens - PA Images/Getty Images

Richard Branson is perhaps one of the most adventurous people in the world. But, with all that climbing, sailing, and space travel comes plenty of risks, which proved to be true in late September, when the billionaire and his son, Sam, came within seconds of death on one of the world’s highest peaks.

“At the end of our first day climbing Mont Blanc for the Virgin Strive Challenge we found ourselves trapped on the side of the mountain as a huge rock fall caused boulders the size of small cars to fall on us,” Branson shared on his blog. “We are lucky to be alive. Three seconds earlier we would all certainly have been killed.”

According to Branson, the team had enjoyed a lovely day of climbing before approaching the last section and heading to their base camp. The section — a 100-yard crossing known as Gouter Couloir or the "Gully of Death" — can be treacherous to say the least. However, the guides on the hike thought it may be safe to cross.

“Climbing in teams, myself, Sam, Susie Ma and James Benamore and guides were the last group to traverse the crossing,” Branson wrote. “Within seconds of getting across we heard the most horrible sound. A side of a cliff had broken away from the mountain further up and seconds later huge boulders the size of small cars were bouncing towards us. Rocks rained down on us from every angle. I am not exaggerating when I say four of our team were seconds away from certain death.”

To escape, the entire team had to dive behind a small boulder and wait for the rockslide to pass. One small rock even clipped Sam’s helmet. Sam filmed the event and shared it on Instagram.

The team came to rest that night at base camp with tears streaming down their faces after they all made it out. The team eventually made it to the summit, and in the process raised more than $1 million toward their Big Change partners and projects. As Branson explained, that money will go toward projects that help young people thrive in life.

“It’s been a fantastic challenge that has seen us cycle, sea kayak, hike and climb 2000km across Europe, to the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe,” Branson added. “We’ve experienced every human emotion at their extremes, but every time we’ve heard that little tempting voice in the back of our heads saying ‘why not call it a day’, we’ve pushed through together and reminded ourselves why we’re doing this in the first place.”