Stories of fear, exploding lava bombs, the proximity of injury and death, and exploring in a changing world of climate crisis: it was not only the guests who were adventurous at the first Cool Conversations event in Edinburgh.

In the first event of its kind this weekend, Aldo Kane, the Scottish television adventurer, former Marine and hostile environment expert, led a panel of modern-day adventurers in a discussion at the Edinburgh Grand in which he admitted that just this year he had been close to death three times.

Leading the way – in a Herald on Sunday event that also featured Robbie Griffith, the parkour expert, Hazel Robertson, the explorer-in-residence at Royal Scottish Geographical Society who has trekked across Alaska, and wild swimmer Calum Maclean – Kane admitted that he still deals with fear.

Kane, who The Herald on Sunday voted No.1 in the Cool List of Scotland’s movers and shakers, insisted he was not immune to fear, despite his many and colourful experiences – the “quite dangerous” climbing on an active volcano, cave diving, sleeping in old nuclear bunkers or encountering gun-toting drug gangs in Mexico.

In front of a large audience at the stunning city-centre venue, he said he needed such dangerous jobs to keep himself “ticking over”.

The 41-year-old, a former Marine sniper who said he may have been born “150 years too late” because of his love for extreme adventuring, said: “Fear is an interesting one: I get scared. This year I have been scared for my life probably three times. I mean that deep-seated, horrible fear where you think: this is probably ‘it’.

“It’s funny, because you are too busy doing the next thing, thinking what am I going to do in the next minute that will get me through the next four minutes? What am I going to do in the next hour that gets me through the next two hours? When you are in it, you are dealing with the survival mechanism. It is when you come out the other side, which is the hard part.”

Read more: In pictures: The Herald on Sunday's first Cool Conversation 

Kane added: “It’s when you get back and start to process the information that is the hardest part. Dealing with fear on the ground, I like to think it’s not fear, it’s more just physiological and psychological reactions to allow you to work faster, harder, longer.”

All the guests had colourful tales to tell. When asked how often he had been injured doing what to outsiders looks seriously dangerous, Robbie Griffith noted he had only broken a bone once – and that was just recently when he slipped on wet wood during one of his parkour moves.

He admitted it was his own fault because he had not checked the conditions as thoroughly as he should.

Maclean recounted the time that he swam in a supposedly haunted black loch on Skye. It made him so cold that on his drive home, he nearly smashed head-on into a truck. He couldn’t understand why the truck was coming towards him on the wrong side of the road but with just feet to spare, he realised it was him on the wrong side and swerved to safety.

Robertson noted how she and her partner, while trekking across Alaska, had to take turns keeping watch in the night for wandering hungry polar bears.

Last year, Kane, from Ayrshire, who runs Vertical Planet, a safety company for film crews in remote, hostile and extreme environments, was tasked with setting up meetings between drug traffickers and Jason Fox, the star of TV series Meet the Drug Lords: Inside the Real Narcos.

He said: “We were embedded with quite a lot of the cartels, and I remember working on a job one night and saying to Foxy, ‘I wish I was in an erupting volcano in the Congo’.”

Kane added: “The hardest thing was doing the drug lords shoot: you are dealing with an environment where people are taking drugs, where using weapons is second nature to them for sorting out any problems, and Foxy and I were completely unarmed, so I had to rely on my charm – so I am surprised I didn’t get shot.”

He noted that he spends a lot of time reducing risk, and added: “I do feel a bit of fraud being named the coolest person in Scotland, but I will take it for the next eight or nine months. Although on the surface it may look like we take a lot of risks, everything that we do, the world that we live in, is based on trying to reduce that risk as much as possible ... I am definitely not a lunatic.”

(Picture credit: Gordon Terris/Herald&Times Group)

Kane underlined that his Marine training had given him a core set of beliefs which aided him today: “The Marines have the Commando spirit: that is courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity, and that cheerfulness is the one thing that I can guarantee, when we are filming, that we rely on all the time.”

The changing climate, and how it felt to engage in adventures and extreme journeys within it, was commented on both by Kane and Robertson.

Robertson undertook an epic journey, with her partner, from the bottom to the top of Alaska on foot and in kayaks. However, deep into the Arctic they had to end their journey, due to the effects of climate change. Lakes that should have been good for kayaking had lost their water and were often full of a kind of sludge, which made progress, in the end, impossible.

The Scottish explorer and endurance athlete noted: “As far as climate change is concerned, the Arctic is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for what is happening in the rest of the world – as the global temperature increases, the permafrost thaws and what used to be under these lakes, holding the water in place, has thawed and the water has drained.

“So what was once a trading route is no longer possible.

“As well as being gutted that our expedition had ended – so suddenly, after putting months and months into it – we were also really sad, seeing at first hand some of these huge changes that are happening around the world.”

Kane, who is making a series about expeditions, said: “Some of the ‘World’s First’ feats, we are only able to do, for example paddling across a particular sound in Greenland – it’s never been done at that time of year – because the pack ice had melted and moved way further north.

“Our expeditions have only been made possible by climate change. As with all TV and with media, it’s difficult to ram the point home and still make a programme – we have definitely seen changes, irreparable changes, in the last two years.

“You are speaking to someone in the middle of the Amazon, or the middle of Greenland, who doesn’t have a huge amount of connectivity to the rest of the world and they’ll tell you: ‘These fish used to swim up here, for as long as our family have known, and in the last two years they’ve stopped.’

“We see it first hand, and it can be quite depressing.”

(Picture credit: Gordon Terris/Herald&Times Group)

Robertson, asked whether her experiences had led to spiritual experiences, said: “I guess for me the connection is with nature, and just really appreciating being out on these expeditions – everything gets so stripped back, you become so in tune with being hungry, and eating is the most amazing sensation to take on food, to be drinking something.

“As long as you have food, water and some kind of safe place for shelter: it’s all you need. It’s really about stripping everything back to basics, as well. In some of the hairier situations, everything becomes clear and you become quite focused, you become very ‘present’ to make rational decisions. You have clarity and a real connection with what is going on in that time.”

Kane added: “I was always going to die with my boots on. If I die with my boots on, I will be happy.”