‘Bonington: Mountaineer’ film review

One of the most incredible things about the new film ‘Bonington: Mountaineer’ – the life story of perhaps Britain’s most loved, and certainly one of its most successful, mountaineers – is that it has taken this long to be made. With a story this good, and with a consummate story-teller to relate it first hand, it’s almost unbelievable that the film’s makers, Brian Hall and Keith Partridge, initially struggled to find funding to make it, and received no firm guarantees from TV executives to even broadcast it. Thank goodness they pushed on, however, for despite Bonington’s many books and the thousands of lectures he has given over the years, his story deserves the full treatment on film. And award-winning cameraman Keith Partridge (‘Touching The Void’, ‘Human Planet’) and producer Brian Hall certainly give it the full treatment, for the resulting 80-minute film looks wonderful.

There’s such a wealth of material to play with that choosing what to leave out must have been an almost impossible task, however under the editorial direction of Bonington himself, the film keeps a firm focus on the most groundbreaking and significant expeditions of his long climbing career. From early trips to the Alps (Central Pillar of Freney, Eiger North Face) to the big siege-style Himalayan expeditions of the early 70s (Annapurna South Face, Everest South West Face), to the move to alpine-style ascents in the late 70s and early 80s (Kongur, Ogre), ‘Bonington: Mountaineer’ is virtually a history lesson in cutting-edge British mountaineering over a ‘golden’ 30-year period. A period that, however, was always tinged with tragedy, with an attrition rate almost as unbelievable as the barriers that this bold generation of climbers pushed through. Tears are never far from Bonington’s eyes – or the viewers’ for that matter – as he recounts losing friend after friend in the mountains, the bittersweet irony being that often their objective had already been achieved.

Yet despite the enormous losses, Bonington never lost his desire for adventure, and with Everest ‘off his back’ after his summit in 1985 with Arne Naess’s Norwegian expedition, he was free to climb for the sheer joy of it – something he does to this day (as evidenced by the remarkable ascent of the Old Man of Hoy at age 80). ‘Bonington: Mountaineer’ is a wonderful film that does full justice to one of the most extraordinary and adventurous of lives, lived by a man that has always captured the imagination and respect of both the climber and the wider public alike. Essential viewing!

Watch the film trailer HERE

‘Bonington: Mountaineer’ will be available to download from 20th November. For more info, go to www.boningtonfilm.com



  1. Saw the film last night at Kendal MF. Excellent experience and compelling viewing. A rich story full of emotion, heartbrake and happiness.

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