An avalanche hit us and we had no idea of the dan­ger... we were laugh­ing

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

HE is one of our great­est liv­ing ad­ven­tur­ers, ad­mired for feats in­clud­ing be­ing the first Bri­ton to climb the North Wall of the Eiger.

But for his first ever moun­tain climb, Sir Chris Bon­ing­ton, who has scaled Ever­est four times, would only have been met with fury. For the pro­fes­sional moun­taineer and Honorary Pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Ori­en­teer­ing Fed­er­a­tion ad­mits that for his first ever peak chal­lenge he took on Snow­don to­tally un­pre­pared.

Writ­ing about his early years Sir Chris ex­plains in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy As­cent how as a teenager he de­cided to ven­ture to the new Na­tional Park of Snow­do­nia with his school friend, An­ton.

It was Christ­mas 1951 and the bud­ding ad­ven­turer was 17. Now 83, he of­fers this in­sight into that first disas- ter prone climb.

He ex­plains: “I bought a pair of exWar De­part­ment hob­nailed boots from an Army sur­plus store, but An­ton made do with his school shoes.

“We both had our school macs. Yet we had cho­sen one of the hard­est win­ters of re­cent years for our in­tro­duc­tion to the hills.

“Our map showed a foot­path to the sum­mit known as the Pyg Track. The trou­ble was, it was con­cealed by snow.

“We were about to aban­don our at­tempt when three climbers with ice axes strode past – so we fol­lowed them.

“Soon we had not the faintest idea of where we were as we floun­dered up to our waists in snow. The fig­ures in front were fast-van­ish­ing blurs in the swirling flakes.

“Sud­denly ev­ery­thing around us was mov­ing: we were caught in an avalanche, slid­ing with in­creas­ing speed down the steep­en­ing slope. We had no idea of how dan­ger­ous our sit­u­a­tion was or the con­se­quences if we had gone over a cliff.

“We were tum­bling down, laugh­ing and whoop­ing, un­til we came to a rest just above a frozen tarn. When we got back to the youth hos­tel I was soaked, ex­hausted, but deliri­ously happy.”

It was a jour­ney that was to shape the rest of his life. For as writes he had “tasted the ad­dic­tive ela­tion of a brush with dan­ger.”

Not a brush that today’s moun­tain res­cue teams would en­cour­age oth­ers to fol­low. ● As­cent, by Sir Chris Bon­ing­ton, is pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter on Oc­to­ber 19, priced £20.

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