06 Nov Sir Chris Bonington: The Wisdom of Climbing Everest
I remember vividly how my journey into mountaineering and climbing began at the tender age of 16. It all started with a deep-seated passion for the outdoors and a longing for adventure. Prior to that, I had embarked on numerous hiking escapades and small-scale adventures. However, my eye was caught by the majestic Snowdon, and I couldn’t resist the urge to climb it. It was the middle of winter, and myself and a friend decided to tackle it when there was hardly a soul around.
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The mountain was adorned with a thick blanket of snow, and it was an audacious move on our part. As fate would have it, we found ourselves caught in an avalanche. But even after that harrowing experience on Snowdon, I couldn’t shake the thrill of adventure.
I vividly recall an evening at a youth hostel shortly after our Snowdon escapade. I was sitting down to supper when I overheard a couple of fellows who had been rock climbing. Their animated conversation ignited something within me. It was at that moment I realized there was something more I needed to explore.
I reached out to a friend of the family who had some experience with climbing, and he introduced me to a place called Harrison Rocks, not far from London. The moment my hands touched that rock, it was like a revelation. I had discovered a profound connection with climbing.
At the core of climbing and mountaineering lies the sheer joy of having absolute control over your body. It’s akin to a dance, where every movement is deliberate and coordinated. Climbing is a static sport, where you maintain three points of contact while strategically maneuvering your limbs. It’s like a game of chess, with your focus entirely on making precise moves. And once you’ve committed, there’s no turning back.
You navigate through two or three precarious moves until you reach the end of the rope length pitch. At that moment, a sense of euphoria washes over you. It’s indescribable.
But what truly intrigues me about mountaineering is the allure of uncharted territories. The idea of venturing where no one has set foot before and conquering a mountain or rock climbing challenge is exhilarating. Whether it’s a new route in the British countryside or massive undertakings like the South Face of Annapurna or the Southwest Face of Everest, the process is a journey of discovery.
It starts with identifying an aesthetically pleasing challenge, one that beckons to you. Then comes the intricate process of finding a solution. You determine a feasible route, plan your ascent, and step onto the mountain. The real adventure begins as you confront unforeseen challenges—weather shifts, illnesses, conflicts among team members. But you persevere, and through teamwork and determination, you eventually find success.
Success, to me, has a dual nature. Of course, reaching the summit is one part of it, but equally significant is how you reach that summit. It’s about giving it your all, working harmoniously with your team, and facing adversity head-on. Even if you fall short of the summit, the journey and the effort expended along the way hold immense value.
I often receive emails and inquiries from individuals inspired by my adventures, asking how they can climb Everest or undertake similar challenges. My response is consistent: start from the basics. Learn the craft of rock climbing and build your skills from there. Life should be a series of horizons, like a succession of hills to climb.
As you stand atop one hill, you’ll spot others in the distance, higher and more challenging. Embrace the adventure of the present, savor every moment of learning and growth, and always push your boundaries a little further. Forget about the end goal, whether it’s Everest or any other summit. Instead, focus on the joy of the journey and the boundless capabilities you possess.
In the end, it’s the thrill of the climb that truly matters.
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