Its not often I win a raffle, or even a tombola but when the opportunity arose to win a trip to an evening talk at the Royal Geographical Society with Sir Chris Bonington I jumped at the chance to enter.
I travelled to London along with the other lucky winners Guy Millership, Ivan Muckle, James Ellis, and Sarah Breddy. On arrival at the venue we were greeted by the man himself, with a huge smile and time to chat to us all, such a warm and friendly man. The night was entitled “My Climbing Life – a celebration with friends and family” and as we were ushered into the champagne reception I think we were all quite in awe of what this room full of silver topped gentleman had achieved and the places they had been throughout their lives.
As we entered the packed auditorium I think pretty much every seat in the room was taken, a testament to Sir Chris Bonington, one of the worlds most respected mountaineers.
A packed auditorium turned up for the evening with Sir Chris
The structure of the evening was basically Sir Chris sitting on a stage with each of his friends for about 10 minutes to talk about all they had done and experienced together. There was plenty of bantering with Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, renowned round the world sailor, about the times they’ve gone on adventures when Bonington has forgotten the map! The pair have spent time learning each other discipline and they talked of a trip sailing to Greenland to climb a mountain called the Cathedral.
Doug Scott, another incredible mountaineer was a guest on the evening, he was part of Sir Chris’ successful expedition in 1975 on the South West face of Everest. The pair also talked about the trip that saw Scott break both his legs during the abseil down after a successful summit of the Ogre, a “Touching the Void” style story. In a really desperate situation that saw Bonington later too become a causalty himself breaking his ribs, I was really struck by just how positive their attitudes were. Miles from anywhere with over 2000m of technical climbing still to complete the pair never once questioned their successful outcome. It seemed to be all about how they would solve the problem and definitely not if they would solve the problem.
Myself along with a few other members of Berghaus staff that were lucky enough to meet Sir Chris
There were many other people there to share Sir Chris’ 65 year climbing career with us, from friends from his army days, his expedition doctor Charles Clarke who has shared both tragedy and success with Bonington, to finally, his son Rupert who shared an insight into having an adventurer for a Dad.
Finally he talked about his latest climb with Leo Houlding. 48 years after his first ascent, once again successfully climbing the Old Man of Hoy at the tender age of 80.
What an extraordinary life Sir Chris Bonington has had with all that he’s achieved throughout his life and there seems little evidence of him slowing up, as he talked about just getting back from the states and his plans in the coming weeks for a climbing trip to Spain. I felt privileged to have been able to hear about it from the legend himself, a sentiment I think was shared by the rest of the auditorium going by the length of his standing ovation.