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Adventure | Personal Development | Inspiration | Motivation
Born in Hampstead in 1934, Sir Chris Bonington was educated at University College School, London and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the Royal Tank Regiment in 1956. He spent three years in North Germany in command of a troop of tanks and then two years at the Army Outward Bound School as a mountaineering instructor. It was during this period that he started climbing in the Alps, making the first British ascent of the South West Pillar of the Drus in 1958 and then the first ascent of the Central Pillar of Freney on the south side of Mont Blanc in 1961. At that time this was one of the most difficult climbs in the Alps and even today is considered one of the great classics of the Mont Blanc region. He made the first British ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger in 1962.
On leaving the Army in 1961 Sir Bonington joined Unilever as a Management Trainee but after nine months realized that he could never combine a conventional career with his love of mountaineering. Now married to a freelance illustrator of children's books, with two sons, he made the decision to go freelance and since 1962 has followed a successful course as writer, photographer, and mountaineer.
Having started climbing at the age of sixteen, Chris Bonington reached a high standard of rock climbing while still in his teens. In 1960 he was invited to join the Joint British-Indian-Nepalese Services Expedition to Annapurna II (26,041 ft.), and reached the summit.
Other outstanding climbs followed until in 1966 Sir Bonington was given his first assignment by the Daily Telegraph Magazine to cover other expeditions--climbing the highest active volcano in the world, Sangay in Ecuador; caribou hunting with the Eskimos in Baffin Island; a story from Hunza. His fast-developing career as an adventure journalist and photographer reached a climax in 1968 when he accompanied an Army Expedition, led by the then Captain John Blashford-Snell, in their attempt to make the first ever descent of the Blue Nile. This proved to be his most exciting, and by far most dangerous, adventure yet and by the end of the expedition he knew he should get back to climbing, the activity he loved and thoroughly understood.
In the autumn of 1968 Sir Bonington started planning an expedition to attempt the South Face of Annapurna. At this time no major Himalayan wall had been climbed and tackling this huge, 12,000 ft. wall was a step into the unknown since it involved climbing steep rock and ice at heights of over 24,000 feet. Careful choice of team members and logistical planning was rewarded by success they reached the summit on 27th May 1970.
After the ascent of Annapurna, the "last great problem"--the South West Face of Everest--was a logical follow-up. In 1972 he led the British Expedition that was defeated by the savage winds and intense cold of that autumn and winter. When the opportunity came for a further attempt, in the autumn of 1975, he led the British Everest Expedition to success when Doug Scott and Dougal Haston reached the summit on 24th of September.
Two years later Chris Bonington and Doug Scott made the first ascent of the Ogre (23,900 ft.) in the Karakoram Himalaya and had an epic six-day descent, aided by Mo Anthoine and Clive Rowland. Climbing through a blizzard he had a fall and broke a rib and Mr. Scott crawled all the way as he had broken both his legs soon after leaving the summit. They ran out of food and when at last they reached Base Camp, starving and exhausted, it was only to find that their companions had given them up for lost and abandoned the camp. In 1978 he led a small team to attempt the previously unclimbed formidable West Ridge of K2, which at 28,741 ft. is the second highest mountain in the world. This ended when, tragically, a huge avalanche that swept across part of their route engulfed one of the team.
Then there was a break of two years spent researching and writing Sir Bonington's book, Quest For Adventure, which became an immediate best seller and was on the Sunday Times Best Seller list for over ten weeks. After that, as might be expected, he became involved in yet another "first."
In 1980 Chris Bonington, Dr. Michael Ward, and Alan Rouse were among the first Europeans to visit China when they re-opened some of their mountain areas to foreign mountaineers. They made a reconnaissance of Mount Kongur, a remote unclimbed mountain in Western Xinjiang, and returned again in 1981 for the successful ascent of the 25,325 ft. peak. Their accomplishment is graphically described in his book, Kongur, China's Elusive Summit. In 1982 he, together with Peter Boardman, Joe Tasker and Dick Renshaw, attempted the long unclimbed North East Ridge of Everest without oxygen. Mr. Renshaw had to retire when he suffered a mild stroke. He decided that as he was moving so much slower than the rest of the team, they should go for the top on their own. Tragically they disappeared on what he described as "the happiest expedition any of us had been on" and it was abandoned.
In June of 1984, Sir Bonington, together with Al Rouse and two Pakistani climbers, attempted the unclimbed 24,607 foot Karun Koh in the Karakoram Himalaya but was defeated by bad weather.
Chris Bonington realized his lifetime ambition when, in 1985 he reached the summit of Everest as a member of the Norwegian Everest Expedition.
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the successful 1985 Norwegian Everest Expedition the team came together again, this time to attempt the first ascent of Drangnag-Ri, an unclimbed 6801m peak in the Rolwaling Himal, appropriately not far from Everest itself. Once more the expedition was successful when Sir Bonington, and his team reached the summit after some technically difficult and challenging climbing.
After two and a half years involved in the writing and production of a picture book, and a television series and book about the history of mountaineering, Sir Bonington joined forces with Robin Knox-Johnston on an expedition to Greenland. They sailed there in the yacht Suhaili, in which Knox-Johnston made the first non-stop, single-handed circumnavigation of the world, to attempt the previously unclimbed, 2660 metre Cathedral peak, in the remote Lemon Bjerge range.
In 1996 Chris Bonington made a reconnaissance with Charles Clarke to North East Tibet to find the peak they had seen through a plane window on their way to Lhasa in 1982. They found their mountain (Sepu Kangri 6950m) and in the spring 1997 made their first attempt to climb it. He and four others made up the climbing team, supported by Charles Clarke, Jim Curran (filming) and Duncan Sperry (Email and Internet technical support). This was the first time that he used satellite technology on an expedition to run a website. The team was beaten by appalling weather and retreated having reached 6100 metres on the North East Face of Sepu Kangri.
In Spring 2000 Sir Bonington had a family trip to the Kanchenjunga region in Nepal making the first ascent of Danga II and later that summer climbed in South Greenland making several first ascents.
In 2001 Chris Bonington co-led an Indian, American, British expedition to the Arganglas range in Ladakh, NW India. He also made his first trip to Tafraute region of Morocco to join a group of rock legendary figures and others who had been exploring and making new routes over a period of twelve years. He had a great time and has been going annually ever since.
In 2003, Sir Chris Bonington joined a group of Indian and British friends in an enjoyable trek and climb in Kullu, the following year in Lahoul, and in 2005 in Kumaon. He also climbed Kilimanjaro for a second time with a group of Pentland executives. Pentland owns Berghaus, of which he is non-executive Chairman. He attempted to sail once again into Kangelugsuaq to climb the Cathedral.
Sir Chris Bonington is more than just a mountaineer, writer and lecturer. He is now one of the country's leading motivational speakers for business.
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