Journal entry 12/13/10.
Sir Christian Bonington is Britain’s best known mountaineer. He began climbing in 1951 and over the next 50 years did difficult first ascents in most of the greater mountain ranges of the world including this small sampling:
1st ascent Annapurna II (26,041 ft) 1960
1st ascent Nuptse (25,850 ft) 1961
1st ascent Central Pillar of Freney 1961
1st British ascent North Face of The Eiger 1962
1st ascent Central Tower of Paine, Patagonia 1963
Leader of successful Annapurna South Face Expedition 1970
1st ascent Changabang (22,520 ft) 1974
Leader of successful Everest South West Face Expedition 1975
1st ascent, the Ogre (23,900 ft)1977
1st ascent Mount Kongur, Western Xinjiang, China (25,325 ft) 1981
1st ascent Shivling West (21,250 ft) 1983
He has led and been on 19 Himalayan expeditions, including four to Everest which he summited in 1985 at the age of fifty. His partners were no slouches either, he frequently partnered with the likes of Ian Clough, boozing n’ brawling Don Whillans, Tom Patey, Doug Scott, Dougal Haston and other notables.
Speaking of Doug Scott, he and Bonington were the first to reach the summit of 23,901 ft Baintha Brakk (The Ogre) in Pakistan. Unfortunately, Scott broke both of his ankles on the very first rappel off the top and it took eight days for he and Bonington, who broke two ribs and contracted pneumonia, to literally crawl off the mountain in heavy storms. By the time they reached Base Camp, exhausted and out of food, they found that their support team had given them up for dead and departed. After a five day wait they are helped out by some local Baltis and in three more days they get to a helicopter which after all this crash lands 100 feet shy of the helipad in Skardu. All survive.
Bonington, also the author of 17 books, was knighted in 1996.
I photographed him at his home in Cumbria, England, September 2010.
Photo © Jim Herrington
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