Sir Chris Bonington was educated at University College School, London and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the Royal Tank Regiment in 1956.
He spent three years in North Germany in command of a troop of tanks and then two years at the Army Outward Bound School as a mountaineering instructor. It was during this period that he started climbing in the Alps, making the first British ascent of the South West Pillar of the Drus in 1958 and then the first ascent of the Central Pillar of Freney on the south side of Mont Blanc in 1961 with Don Whillans, Ian Clough and the Pole, Jan Dlugosz.. At that time this was one of the most difficult climbs in the Alps and even today is considered one of the great classics of the Mont Blanc region.
Sir Chris Bonington made the first British ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger in 1962.
On leaving the Army in 1961 he joined Unilever as a Management Trainee but after nine months realised that he could never combine a conventional career with his love of mountaineering. Now married to Wendy, a freelance illustrator of children’s books, Bonington made the decision to go freelance and since 1962 has followed a successful course as writer, photographer and mountaineer. They have two sons, Daniel and Rupert.
Having started climbing at the age of sixteen, Chris Bonington reached a high standard of rock climbing while still in his teens. In 1960 he was invited to join the Joint British-Indian-Nepalese Services Expedition to Annapurna II (26,041 ft.), and reached the summit.
Other outstanding climbs followed until in 1966 he was given his first assignment by the Daily Telegraph Magazine to cover other expeditions – climbing the highest active volcano in the world, Sangay in Ecuador; caribou hunting with the Eskimos in Baffin Island; a story from Hunza.
Bonington’s fast-developing career as an adventure journalist and photographer reached a climax in 1968 when he accompanied an Army Expedition, led by the then Captain John Blashford-Snell, in their attempt to make the first ever descent of the Blue Nile. This proved to be Bonington’s most exciting, and by far most dangerous, adventure yet and by the end of the expedition he knew he should get back to climbing, the activity he loved and thoroughly understood.
In the autumn of 1968 Bonington started planning an expedition to attempt the South Face of Annapurna. At this time no major Himalayan wall had been climbed and tackling this huge, 12,000 ft. wall was a step into the unknown since it involved climbing steep rock and ice at heights of over 24,000 feet. Careful choice of team members and logistical planning was rewarded by success when Dougal Haston and Don Whillans reached the summit on 27th May, 1970.
After the ascent of Annapurna, the ‘last great problem’ – the South West Face of Everest – was a logical follow-up. In 1972 he led the British Expedition which was defeated by the savage winds and intense cold of that autumn and winter. When the opportunity came for a further attempt, in the autumn of 1975, Bonington led the British Everest Expedition to success when Doug Scott and Dougal Haston reached the summit on 24th September.
Two years later he and Doug Scott made the first ascent of the Ogre (23,900 ft.) in the Karakoram Himalaya and had an epic six-day descent, aided by Mo Anthoine and Clive Rowland, through a blizzard, with Doug Scott crawling all the way as he had broken both his legs soon after leaving the summit.
Bonington also had a fall and broke a rib, they ran out of food and when at last they reached Base Camp, starving and exhausted, it was only to find that their companions had given them up for lost and abandoned the camp.
In 1978 Chris Bonington led a small team to attempt the previously unclimbed formidable West Ridge of K2, which at 28,741 ft. is the second highest mountain in the world. This ended when, tragically, Nick Estcourt was engulfed by a huge avalanche which swept across part of their route. Then there was a break of two years spent researching and writing his book, ‘Quest for Adventure’ which became an immediate best seller and was on the Sunday Times Best Seller list for over ten weeks.
After that, as might be expected, he became involved in yet another ‘first’.
Sir Chris Bonington is more than just a mountaineer, writer and lecturer. He is also one of the country’s leading motivational speakers for business.
Leading the way with audio-visual presentations Chris is now going digital. This enables him to use his stunning visuals, computer animation and video all together. While Chris talks you through his expeditions, making the links between what he does so successfully on the mountain with business today, you will be inspired, thrilled and more than ready to climb your own Everest.
Peak of Achievement
A program illustrating:
- Identifying the Vision
- The importance of planning
- The principles of effective leadership
- Team Building
Reaching the highest point on earth requires teamwork of the highest level. Chris Bonington describes his own personal success in at last reaching the summit of Everest in 1985 at the age of 50, as a member of the Norwegian Everest Expedition. The expedition placed eighteen climbers and Sherpas on the summit in three separate ascents, a record for a single expedition. This was possible because of superb planning and organisation, but most of all, because of the quality of teamwork amongst expedition members.
The leader was Arne Naess, a millionaire ship owner, and Bonington acted as his chief of staff looking after the logistics and advising on strategy. In this presentation he studies Naess’s approach to leadership and explores the dynamics of decision making within the team.
Bonington was stretched to the limit in his own bid for the summit and describes how he was helped by his companions. He also shares his thoughts as he approached the summit. He takes the audience step by step up Everest in such a vivid way that they share in the exhilaration of the climb. He constantly draws parallels between the effort on the mountain and the challenges of today’s business and management world.
Climb Everest’s South West Face:
A program illustrating:
- Visionary Leadership
- Synergy in Teamwork
- Planning and Organisation
- Determination and Perseverance
The participants will join him on the first ascent of the South West Face of Everest in 1975. It was the largest and most complex expedition ever to leave Britain, tackling what is arguably the most daunting challenge in the history of climbing – Everest the Hard Way. Five strong expeditions had already tried and failed. He will first take participants through the planning process and then on to the climb itself, setting the scene, giving all the relevant information but then asking the delegates for their solutions to the problems involved.
The topics examined are ones of leadership and group dynamics rather than climbing tactics. This approach enables the entire group to participate in the climb, exploring different ways to deal with issues as they occur in his story of the expedition. In the course of the discussion he brings the participants back to their own workday challenges and encourages them to compare these with the issues that we explore on the mountain.
As the story unfolds he involves the group in helping him solve some of the challenges or dilemmas with which he is confronted on the way.