In the wake of the celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest, Sir Chris has acclaimed the current world leading position of British mountaineering.
He was speaking at the “Endeavour on Everest” Royal Gala Event last Thursday, attended by Her Majesty The Queen, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and the survivors of the successful 1953 team. The event, hosted by Sir Richard Attenborough featured Everest celebrities Doug Scott CBE, George Band and Stephen Venables amongst others, and used slides and archive film to illustrate the story of the ascent. Sir Chris used the opportunity to compare the successes of modern day British mountaineers to the historic achievements on Everest, saying “The state of British climbing is very healthy, with a growing number of people going out to the greater ranges every year. I believe this continued spirit of world class adventure is good for the health of the national psyche”
Many of these expeditions are only possible through financial support from the Mount Everest Foundation (MEF) and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). The MEF was originally set up with the surplus from the 1953 expedition and has been supporting expeditions trying first ascents or new routes ever since. To date the BMC and MEF have awarded grants to over 1400 expeditions, involving many of the world’s most noteworthy ascents: - Jules Cartwright and Rich Cross – first ascent of the NW ridge of Ama Dablam (one of the last great unclimbed lines in the Himalaya) - Louise Thomas (BMC Vice-President) – an all female team climbing hard new routes in Pakistan - Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden – first ascent of a new route on the North face of Siguniang (This ascent won the prestigious Piolet d’Or for the most significant worldwide ascent of the year)
Sir Chris concluded his speech by highlighting concerns that in the current financial climate, the value of the grants the BMC and MEF is able to offer is steadily declining. He stressed the vital role of these bodies in the development of mountain adventure worldwide, and thanked all present for their continued support of them. His words highlight the importance of the work that organisations such as BMC do, not just in the field of expeditions, but also in other vital areas such as Access and Conservation, Safety & Training, Heritage and Competitions. Without the huge effort from the many thousands of volunteers involved on a local and national level, British climbing would not be still enjoying global success fifty years after the “victory for the human spirit” that was the ascent of Everest.
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