Bonita Norris Interview taken in 2012
On the 17th of May 2010 Bonita became the youngest British woman to climb Mount Everest at the age of 22 via the South Col – South East Ridge route.
Where did the idea of climbing Mount Everest come from considering before your big climb you had little experience of mountaineering?
I decided I wanted to climb Mount Everest after firstly reading Bear Grylls book and then attending a lecture at the RGS. It was a few weeks after that lecture that I sat up in bed one night and thought: ‘this is what I’m going to do’ though obviously I had no idea about what attempting Everest entailed, so it was a very naive decision to make. By the time I reached Everest base camp 18 months later I had climbed an 8000m peak and was fully aware of what I was about to endure, had considered the risks and done my best to make sure I had gotten myself into the best situation possible to make a safe ascent.
Mountaineering is very much male dominated, why do you think many woman don’t give it a go?
As a female mountaineer I find that impossible to answer 🙂
While on Everest were you treated any different for being a woman or were you expected to muck in like everyone else?
The mountains are a great leveller- I do not think I was ever treated differently for being a girl. I am fairly strong at altitude and can look after myself so there was never the need to be looked after on Everest, though as someone learning the ropes on Manaslu I had lots of help from Rob Casserley and Henry Todd- but that was as an apprentice- not because I am a girl!
Did you find the Khumbu Icefall a frightening place to be every time you ventured into it?
It’s incredibly beautiful but so so dangerous. The ice doctors do their best to pick the safest route, and we follow rules to try and keep ourselves safe, but I never for a moment relaxed in that world of ice.
Standing on the summit what were your feelings and what was going through your mind?
My thoughts pretty much instantly were: base camp is a really long way away- let’s start going down! It was an overwhelming moment that didn’t really sink in until we were back at BC.
What girly things did you take to Everest and what did you miss the most being away from home?
Girly things… hmmm. Nothing, not even a mirror! If I went again the one thing I would take would be a really good joint of Serrano ham- spam doesn’t really do it for me as protein!
What can you remember much about your fall high up on Mount Everest?
All of it, crystal clear. I can remember most of all the overwhelming feeling of guilt that I had let my team down. It’s not something I’ve ever managed to shake. Especially after a story was sold to the Guardian before I even returned to the UK.
Apart from your fall were there any other times that you feared for your life?
Pretty much all the time! In the mountains even a simple slip can end in disaster. I am very cautious- I take my time, I watch the Sherpa’s- the one thing I have been told is to never underestimate the mountains, but you need to stay calm and focussed all the time too- its a balance that you learn with experience, and if I am honest, I’ve become more cautious the more I’ve climbed- naivety is gradually replaced with the reality that yes you can actually die- but you need experience to fully appreciate that. It is so easy to think ‘it won’t happen to me’.
Name any climber, dead or alive, you would like on the other end of your rope and why?
I would love to hear Johnny Dawe’s stories first hand
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?
I would really love to think that they did!
If you would like to find out more about Bonita then please pay a visit to her website at www.bonitanorris.blogspot.com