Sir Chris Bonington, one of Britain’s leading mountaineers and a name familiar to mountain lovers the world over, turns 80 today but the moment is sure to be bittersweet for Bonington due to the recent loss of his wife Wendy to motor neurone disease (MND). However, typical of the man is that he will use the occasion of his 80th birthday as an opportunity to improve awareness of MND, for which there is no cure and about which very little is known. He and his family are also raising funds online for three organisations, including the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which funds research into MND and provides support, along with Hospice at Home and Cumbria Crossroads, which both gave care and support to the family during Wendy’s illness.
A life in the mountains|
Sir Chris Bonington started climbing in 1951, at the age of 16, and it has been his passion ever since. During over 60 years of adventure, Bonington has undertaken and led 19 Himalayan expeditions, including four to Everest. He has made numerous first ascents around the world, while also continuing to indulge his love of hillwalking and rock climbing when back at home in the Lake District or exploring other parts of the UK and Ireland. Bonington made the first British ascent of the north wall of the Eiger and led the 1970 expedition that completed the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna, the biggest and most difficult climb in the Himalaya at the time. He went on to lead the successful expedition that made the first ascent of the south west face of Everest in 1975, which also saw the first British mountaineers reach the summit of the world’s highest peak in Doug Scott and Dougal Haston. In 1977, Bonington and Scott made the first ascent of the Ogre in Pakistan. Their dramatic six days long descent, during which Scott broke both legs and Bonington broke ribs, has become the stuff of climbing legend. The peak was not climbed again for another 24 years. Bonington himself reached the summit of Everest at the age of 50 in 1985, as a member of a Norwegian expedition. He is still active in the mountains, climbing with the same enthusiasm as he had at the beginning of his career.
Away from the hills
Sir Chris has written 17 books and fronted numerous television programmes, and was a key participant in the ground-breaking live television broadcast of the first ascent of the Old Man of Hoy in 1966. He has also lectured to the public and corporate audiences all over the world. Bonington received a knighthood in 1996 for services to mountaineering.
Off the mountains, Sir Chris Bonington has contributed a great deal of time and energy to the outdoor community, with roles in organisations such as the British Mountaineering Council, Outdoor Industries Association, Council for National Parks, the Outward Bound Trust and, most recently, the Friends of Blencathra. Bonington is non-executive chairman of Berghaus, the UK’s leading outdoor brand. 2014 is the 30th anniversary of his association with the company and Berghaus has announced a series of initiatives to celebrate both that landmark and his 80th birthday.
A sequence of videos will be released during this week at www.youtube.com/berghausofficial, reflecting on Bonington’s life and achievements, and hinting at some new adventures that are in the pipeline. The Berghaus Facebook page will host Sir Chris Bonington themed galleries, competitions and other material, while @TheRealBerghaus on Twitter will encourage the public to share their #HappyBirthdayChris! messages. Finally, details will be revealed in the near future of a major climbing project that Bonington will undertake to mark his 80th birthday.
For more information about Sir Chris Bonington visit his profile page on the Berghaus website.