Sir Chris Bonington is our premier mountain man. The first Briton to climb the North Wall of the Eiger in 1962, he led the ascent of the South Face of Annapurna in 1970 – for its time the most difficult technical climb to the summit of a major peak – and in 1975 faced the ultimate challenge, leading the first ascent of Everest by the south-west ridge. He became a household name.
When Bonington started climbing none of the 14 peaks that rise into the ‘death zone’ above 8000 metres had been conquered. In a career spanning six decades he has learnt what it takes to conquer fear, develop the skills to attempt the world’s most difficult peaks and adapt to its most uninhabitable places.
He has survived eight near-death experiences, has mourned and in some cases witnessed the deaths of other luminaries of the mountain fraternity. He has climbed with the mercurial Dougal Haston, the philosophical Stephen Venables, the enigmatic Doug Scott and the hard man Don Whillans, in the course of nineteen Himalayan expeditions and many first ascents from Chile to China.
The 1975 Everest expedition was the apotheosis of the military-style assault involving national teams, dozens of porters, tons of supplies and thousands of feet of fixed ropes. Bonington will describe these experiences, the change to ‘Alpine style’ lightweight expeditions with small teams of climbers making fast ascents, and the different challenges faced by modern climbers who live in a world where almost every peak has been conquered.
Join us to mark the publication of Ascent: A Life Spent Climbing on the Edge, the complex life story of Britain’s greatest climber.