Having just picked up the prestigious Piolet d'Or lifetime achievement award, BMC Patron Sir Chris Bonington tells us why the award is so special, offers advice on making a career out of climbing and reveals what climbs he's got his eye on next.
The award was honoured to Sir Chris at the Piolet d'Or ceremony in Courmayeur and Chamonix earlier this month.
The other Piolets d'Or winners this year were: Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold for their five-day traverse of the Fitz Roy massif in Patagonia; Alexander Gukov and Alexey Lonchinsky (Russia) for the first ascent of the direct Southwest Face of Thamserku (6,618 metres) in Nepal; and Ales Cesen, Luka Lindic, and Marko Prezelj (Slovenia), for the first ascent of the North Face of Hagshu (6,657 metres) in India.
Below is a brief catch up with Sir Chris – for more insights on his life of adventure and climbing in his 80s check out this brilliant Summit interview by Claire-Jane Carter, which featured in the Winter issue of the magazine.
How does it feel to be honoured with this award?
CB: What's special about the Piolet d'Or lifetime achievement award is that it comes from my peers on an international level. It's awarded from within the family of climbers.
What achievement in your life are you most proud of, and why?
Doing a good job of leading the Everest South West Expedition in 1975. It was a huge challenge and needed really good planning and organisation, and great team work for us to achieve success.
In Alpine terms our first ascent of the Central Pillar of Freney in 1961 stands out (with Don Whillans, Ian Clough and Jan Djuglosz). It is very satisfying to have shared in pioneering a great Alpine classic that had defied some of the best Alpinists of that time, and on one of the most remote and difficult faces in the Alps.
What advice would you give to young climbers thinking of trying to make a career out of climbing?
Be very clear about how you want to make that career. It's unlikely that anyone is going to pay you for just being a climber, however good you are.
1. Do you want to be a guide or outdoor instructor? In which case you need to have a real passion for caring and teaching?
2. Do you want to be a writer, photographer or film maker, in which case you need to master those skills and it's very hard work? You need natural talent which you then hone with practice.
3. Do you want to be a climbing or outdoor organiser or executive working for the BMC or similar organisations, in which case you need to be a good organiser and office worker?
What are your next goals – any more books in the pipeline?
My goal this year is to fully recover from a slipped disk gained while doing the Old Man of Hoy. Next year I've got a trip laid on to Patagonia to revisit the Towers of Paine which I shall pay for by doing some lectures in Chile. Looking forward to walking round the Towers after all these years and doing some walking in Chile. I also hope to get in a trip to the Himalayas with a track off the beaten track culminating in a nice easy unclimbed peak. My long term goal is to keep working and climbing through my eighties.
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