At Berghaus we live for adventure – it’s in everything we do. Here mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington shares his most memorable adventures and tells us what he’s got lined up next.
What does adventure mean to you?
Adventure is climbing to the limit – pushing the envelope – revelling in that element of risk and my ability to control it. There is a fantastic sense of euphoria when you’ve managed a series of hard frightening moves a long way above your last runner, you’ve reached a stance and know you’ve cracked it.
Going into the unknown is very important whether it’s a new route on a crag or an unclimbed peak in the Himalaya. It’s the intellectual challenge and stimulus of tracing a route up a stretch of rock or mountain and then physically climbing it and solving a problem that had seemed impossible. It’s all about proving the seeming impossible to be feasible.
It’s that element of uncertainty of the outcome.
And it’s doing it amongst magnificent scenery in the company of a good friend or friends.
What is your most memorable adventure?
Leading the expedition that made the first ascent of the South West Face of Everest in 1975 was my greatest challenge in terms of planning and man management.
But in terms of drawn out adventure the Ogre expedition in 1977 must take first place. Climbing the mountain with Doug Scott after an attempt with Nick Estcourt was quite something, but the adventure really kicked in after that. When Doug broke both legs on the first abseil from the summit, we had a desperate eight day descent in a storm, helped by our climbing partners Mo Antoine and Clive Rowland. We went for five days without food; I had an abseil fall and broke my ribs: We couldn’t carry Doug – he had to crawl all the way down and when at last we reached base camp, it was empty!!
That wasn’t fun and I think adventure should be – so the best was my first ascent of the West Summit of Shivling with my mate Jim Fotheringham in 1983. Alpine style – five days up, one day down on the other blind by a route we hadn’t planned and the most pointed summit I’ve ever attained.
Everest was all about logistics, but I did stay at Camp 5 (7650m), did some lead climbing pushing the route out towards the left hand gully through the Rock Band and carried a load to Camp 6 when Doug and Dougal moved up for their summit bid.
The perfect summit – our last bivvy (our 5th)was cut out of the knife edge ridge where you can see my ice axe.
Which adventure do you wish you could have taken part in?
I’d have loved to have been with A.F.Mummery, one of the greatest climbing pioneers and innovators of all time when he made the first ascent of Dych Tau, second highest mountain in the Caucasus and, undoubtedly the hardest, in 1890.
What is your next adventure?
This year I’m going trekking with my son Joe to Bhutan in October and next year A trek with Joe via Gokyo to the Everest Base Camp and climbing Island Peak (6189m) with Joe and a few friends in April – this will be the highest I’ve been for a few years.
I’m also doing a lecture at a film festival and climbing in Chile in early March next year as well as climbing on the West coast of the States in the summer.