Bonita Norris has summited three of the world's 8000m peaks and retains the record as the youngest British woman to climb both Everest and reach the North Pole. She's also written candidly about suffering from bulimia as a teenager.
Finding Our Way podcast champions diverse outdoor voices and is proudly sponsored by Berghaus.
What’s it like climbing the world’s highest mountain?
I felt so lucky donning my oxygen mask and getting in my down suit to go out and climb. And then there are moments when you think, 'I should not be here. Great mountaineers have died trying to get to the top of this mountain. What on earth am I doing?!'
When you're climbing through the night to the top, you can see electrical storms beneath you and then you look up and you're surrounded by the most incredible stars. And when the sun rises, it illuminates the curvature of the earth, it's just stunning. I fell on the descent - stepping into Base Camp after that, I felt like my body was broken. It was a really bad mistake to make at that point on the hill, and it took a long time to come to terms with.
What about the crowding and queues on Everest?
There are a lot of mainly Western companies making huge amounts of money on Everest and not demanding much of their clients. The Sherpas deserve to have people to climb with that have been to an 8000m peak before, and Nepal deserves an economy that isn't completely based on one mountain in one valley.
Is high altitude mountaineering just a lot of suffering?
You've got to love it. On K2 [we were] pitching our tents on tiny little edges and hearing avalanches roar down all night long. You feel so alive. But yes, it is painful. And there are those things like waking up in the morning when hoar frost from your teammates' sweat and breath plops into your eyes. That's your alarm call - sweat and breath falling back on you. And then peeing in bottles. And having a period on the mountain...not ideal, but this is what we live for. On Everest, and in fact all the 8000m peaks I've climbed, you always try to reach the summit on a full moon because there's much more light. And lo and behold, I'm very much in sync with the full moon! So - never be put off from going out in the outdoors or on an adventure for those reasons.
You’ve watched the film ‘Light’, which explored the prevalence of disordered eating in professional climbing...
When you're down the climbing wall or you're watching competitions or out in Spain, there's definitely a lot of talk normalising [the idea of] being light to climb and losing weight. Which, for someone like me who's dealt with a full on eating disorder, just doesn't sit comfortably at all. It seems so easy at the time but it’s a trap. I wouldn't be able to stop, it drags people in and then it's a few more kilos and before you know it your relationship with food and nutrition has completely changed. I'm glad of this documentary. I'm interested to see how, as we open up after lockdown, how it's all going to translate and what changes we might see.
What do climbing and mountaineering mean to you?
FIND OUT MORE: Bonita's Website
WATCH: Light: the documentary by Caroline Treadaway about eating disorders in professional climbing
FIND OUT MORE: Beating Eating Disorders Website
READ: The Nepali Sherpa team who summited K2 in winter
Meet our guests from Season 1:
Rehna Yaseen: Free kit, ‘BAME’ and inspiring young South Asians
Euan Ryan: Making films, climbing and hidden disabilities
Bonita Norris: Everest, ethics and disordered eating
Rob Mitchell: Cake, maps, and gay, bi- & trans lads outdoors
Cherelle Harding: Urban community, reggae and rolling down hills
Stu Skinner: Deserts, jungles and mental health training
Finding Our Way is sponsored by Berghaus, and hosted by BMC walking ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota and expedition leader and equity champion Cress Allwood. Our editor is Chris Stone.
Get involved with the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the BMC Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #FindingOurWay.
Listen now 🎧
Finding Our Way is the new BMC podcast where our guests are as diverse as the outdoors should be.
Hosted by BMC Hillwalking Ambassador and TV Broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota and Expedition Leader and equity champion Cress Allwood, the podcasts aims to diversify the people we normally hear talking about the outdoors, celebrate their stories and shine a light on their insights.
Listen and subscribe on your favourite podcast apps: