As the leader on the 1972, 1975 and 1982
British Everest expeditions, did the media or anyone else ever try to
blame you for the ones that perished and never came home?
NO, there was never any question of that.
Are you happier climbing or sat in Base Camp running the expedition as a leader?
never sat at base camp during an expedition. I believe the best
position as leader of a big siege style expedition is to be in the camp
just behind the lead climbers. In this way you can have a real feel of
what the problems are out in front and also how the supply line is
working, getting the big picture of what is going on through out the
expedition. I have always done a bit of lead climbing, mainly because
that is what I love doing but also, once again to get a feel for the
climb. It’s a mistake to spend too much time out in front however
because you tend to think tactically and loose sight of what else is
What have been your most favorite climbs?
the West summit of Shivling with Jim Fotheringham – It was a 2 man
trip, completely spontaneous, Alpine style, interesting technical
climbing to a lovely pointed summit and a scary descent down the other
side. Another great trip was when Charles Clarke and I went into NW
Tibet to find Sepu Kangri – this was real exploration – not much
climbing, but fascinating country and exploration.
Over the years you have sadly lost some very close friends to the
mountains. Has it ever made you stop and think why am I doing this
You never get hardened to losing good
friends but I love the process of climbing and everything about the
mountains so much that I have never thought of giving up.
What do you think about all these 'stunts' that happen on Everest? For
example, the fastest ascent, oldest person, youngest person,
snowboarding, wedding vows and even standing naked on the summit.
goodness I got up before the “Stunt “ era. It is of no real
significance to mountaineering, but it is a great personal achievement
for anyone who gets to the top, and certainly to snow board, parapont,
ski from the summit or for some one with a disability, or over 70 to
reach the top is also one hell of an achievement. I think this trend is
inevitable in the evolution of things.
wife, Wendy must have hated it every time you said your goodbyes before
hopping on a plane for another expedition. Did she ever try and talk you
out of going on any?
Wendy has always been 100%
behind me on all the climbs I have been on. She fell in love with a
mountaineer and has never wanted to change me.
It has been nearly 24 years since you reached the summit of Everest.
What one item do you think has technically advanced in some way to make
climbing Everest easier today than in 1985?
really the arrival of commercial expeditions that run a line of fixed
rope from bottom to top and then look after the clients and help them
up. Improved oxygen gear and lighter bottles certainly have helped.
There are more commercial expeditions on Everest than ever before now. I
know that they all bring much needed money into the area, but do you
think that there should be a restriction on how many should be allowed
on Everest in any one season?
I think there does
need to be a level of regulation on Everest both in terms of numbers
going on the mountain and also on a code of conduct and guiding
qualifications. It seems ironic that guiding on Mont Blanc is very
strictly (quite rightly) regulated with the guide needing proper
qualifications that demand a long and thorough training, and the guide
only having a maximum of, I think it is three, on his rope, whilst on
Everest which is infinitely more serious and dangerous, there are no
regulations at all.
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?
think it is very possible that Mallory climbed the Second Step. He was a
very good rock climber, but I think it is unlikely that he and Irvine
reached the summit, but you can never be sure, and let’s hope that
remains a tantalizing mystery.
If you would like to find out more about Chris Bonington then head over to his website at www.bonington.com