I read his book Bonington’s Everest a few months back and knew about the failed 1972 South West face attempt, the successful 1975 South West face attempt where he didn’t climb the peak himself as the leader of the expedition and then the successful climb of Everest in 1985. In between there was a disaster when two members of his climbing teams vanished in the mountain in an attempt from the Tibet side.
But it is an entirely different experience to hear the story from Sir Bonington himself. He comes across as a person who goes softly about his achievements. In an era where everyone seems to be shouting themselves hoarse as to how great their achievements are, he is such a breath of fresh air.
When he talks about just being before the Everest summit he remembers so many of his dead climbing partners as if paying a tribute to them. He still seems to be very emotional when he talks about reaching the summit of Mount Everest even today.
And lest you disbelieve me that I am making all this up and I never met Sir Bonington, here is a picture of mine with him.
The best part was to get to talk to him and hang around him with for a while after the question and answer sessions. Durin the Q&A sessions I asked him about his view of the Into Thin Air/The Climb controversy. He said I was asking him tricky questions but he thought that Krakauer was too harsh in his criticism of Boukreev. He said he thought Krakauer was right in remaining in his tent and Boukreev’s role as guide was maybe not too clear to him but Boukreev did went out for rescue. I asked him what he thinks of commercial expeditions to Everest and he said he thought they were inevitable. But then he went on to talk about French mountains and how serious their regulations are. He said if you disobeyed a mountain guide on the French mountains you would go to jail and something like that should be done for Nepal too.
During his talk he asked if anyone of us have done the Everest Base Camp Trek? And no hands went up. I think I am going to make that change before the next year.
PS. There is a good transcript of the talk at London Business Forum.