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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bonington’

Words from the Icons – Chris Bonington

Posted by itrekz on August 6, 2008

For those who doesn’t know who he is: Refer http://www.bonington.com/welcome.htm

The most important discovery of my life, some forty five years ago, was that of climbing. I love it, am obsessed by it,as much now as on the first day when a friend of mine took me to Harrison’s Rocks, a little sandstone outcrop to the south of London.  That day I discovered an activity for which I had natural ability and which seemed to have limitless capacity for personal discovery. I was still at a day school in London, but from that moment on, I took every available opportunity to hitchhike out for holidays in Snowdonia and Scotland, working my way up the climbing grades, discovering the joys of mountaineering on the isle of SKye, the challenge of winter climbing in Scotland, the reaching out to the wider horizons of the Alps and Himalayas.

Over this period I have seen an extraordinary development and expansion of this sport, which is so much more than a sport. It is an obsession, a way of life, a joy, a growing and ever-widening sense of awareness. I started with a apir of clinker nailed boots, a second hand hemp rope and a couple of nylon loops with ex-WD carabiners. The top standard in early fifties was around E 1. Joe Brown and Don Whillans had just started their climbing campaign that was to revolutionise Britishrock climbing, but to me they were just a distant rumour – though I started repeating their routes in 1953, in some instances making second ascents.  It is easy to be nostalgic, but they were great days. There were not many people around and climbing was wonderfully simple – it didn’t pay to fall of when you were leading with only a couple of runners which usually comprised of slings draped over convenient flakes or threaded around stones jammed in cracks.

Yet today I use all the latest devices – Quickdraws, RPs, Rocks, Walnuts, Friend, Chalk- and this has enabled me to keep up a fairly high standard of climbing, E2 %c on a good day at a resonable level of risk. I hate to think of long falls I boldly risked, as we all had to do, in my youth. And yes, I go to the indoor climbing walls and do a bit of sport climbing, which I find fun, but believe passionately that it should be kept of the traditional crags.  Bolt proceeded climbing is a pale imitation of the real thing, for it is the presence of risk that is the fundamental basis of the attraction of climbing. Once a crag has been covered in bolts, not only man or for that matter woman, imposed thier presence on the natural environment, but they have also removed the fundamental challenge of accpeting the natural protection that the rock offers.

So what do I get out of climbing? A lot more than ‘because it is there’. It starts with the physical satisfaction of clambering up a stretch of a rock, essentially the satisfaction of an athlete; but where climbing starts being different and so much stronger an experience, is that element of risk, that you are staking your life on your judgement. There is a sense of discovery, bot of your own limts and places to where no one else has been before.  There is wonder of the beauty of the mountains, the strength of friendships, when your life is literally in your climbing partner’s hands. Certainly, there is competition, even in traditional climbing. The sense of achievement of being the first to solve a boulder problem, of snatching a new route from under the nsoes of your peers, of being the first to top out and unclimbed peak. The secet of staying alvie and going on enjoying the mountains is finding a balance in all these motives for climbing.


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