A packed Opera House was kept enthralled on Friday night by a master storyteller recounting more than half a century of adventures that have taken him around the globe and to some of the world’s most beautiful, yet inhospitable locations.
Sir Chris Bonington’s 90-minute illustrated lecture – “Life and Times” - kept the audience on the edge of their seats as he reeled off account after account of his numerous expeditions.
The talk was also punctuated by sadness – as he spoke about the many climbing friends he’d lost in the mountains; and by laughter – such as when he revealed he once taken an inexperienced friend to the summit of the wrong mountain in Greenland.
It was a real struggle squeezing 60 years’ climbing into just an hour and a half, and there were times when you wished he’d have gone into more details about a specific expedition.
For a local audience it would have been interesting to hear more about Bonington’s trip down the Nile with Old Victorian, Colonel John Blashford Snell. He was only mentioned in passing – a photo of him in the bow of a boat complete with pith helmet ‘leading the charge’, prompting Bonington to comment that Blashers was probably born a century too late.
In the same vein there was no mention at all of another Old Victorian, Kelvin Kent. He played a key role as Advanced Base Camp manager in Bonington’s very successful Everest ’75 expedition, the first to reach the summit by the south-west face. It put the first two Brits on the summit – Scot Dougal Haston and Englishman Doug Scott, but was later over shadowed by the death of another member of the team, Mick Burke, who died on the way down after having also reached the top.
Those omissions and minor criticisms aside, there was plenty to keep any armchair athletes entertained. Bonington’s photography is excellent and his delivery – honed no doubt by hundreds of presentations the length and breadth of the British Isles – was impeccable. It’s clear why Bonington has been so successful: he’s passionate about climbing. Now in his 80s, that passion is very evidently still there, and at the end of the show he quipped he’d love to repeat one of his classic first ascents – the Old Man of Hoy - a 449-foot (137m) sea stack or tower – off the Orkneys on Scotland’s north coast to mark his 90th birthday. I wouldn’t bet against it.
Chris Bonington appeared at the Jersey Opera House on Friday. For more details on Jersey Opera House events, please click here
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