The simple title of this film belies the scope of British climber, mountaineer and adventurer Sir Chris Bonington’s life — a life replete with epic triumphs and dire tragedies. A sub-title, The Story of One of the World’s Most Famous Mountaineers, beefs up the skeletal title a little. Which is enough because it mirrors Bonington’s penchant for modesty. Beyond a chronicle of his many impressive achievements in a rarefied world of almost superhuman challenges, this film provides a trenchant sense of Bonington’s eminently human life. In and among all the first ascents and new routes, it is that humanness that may stand out, and stay with you, the most. That and reveries of a bygone adventure era in the ‘60s and ‘70s that somehow had far fewer players than today but just as many characters.
Sir Chris Bonington: A Life of Great Heights
Born in 1934 in Hampstead, England, Sir Chris Bonington began scaling the walls of Scotland and Wales at the age of 16. He was instantly hooked. “I loved it passionately from that very first moment,” he says.
After climbing avidly in the British Isles as a young man, he began venturing into the Alps and soon, the Himalaya. His passion for climbing went on to shape his life.
Today, the mountaineer, writer, photographer and lecturer continues to enjoy one of the most enduring and illustrious careers climbing has ever seen. His lofty accomplishments include the first British ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger, leading the team that made the first ascent of The South Face of Annapurna and leading the expedition that notched the first ascent of the Southwest Face of Everest.
He has written about his exploits in some 17 books, has lectured worldwide and in 1996, was knighted for services to mountaineering. And some 69 years after he was first introduced to the sport, he still climbs walls with the same drive and enthusiasm that has long fueled him.
Bonington — the subject of Bonington: Mountaineer — will join veteran climbing writer Bernadette McDonald for this conversation about a life spent in the mountains, which will be paired with a screening of the film.
In Person: Sir Chris Bonington Bernadette McDonald