Rick Crandall interviewed Sir Chris Bonington, the legendary British mountaineer, writer, and lecturer, in June 2019. Bonington made the first British ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger and led the expedition that made the first ascent of the South Face of Annapurna, the biggest and most difficult climb in the Himalayas at the time. He went on to lead the expedition that made the first ascent of the Southwest Face of Everest in 1975. He has written 20 books and received a knighthood in 1996 for services to mountaineering.
Sir Chris reached the summit of Everest with a Norwegian expedition via the South Col route in 1985, which was the last year the Nepalese government restricted expeditions to only one at a time. After that, Everest was opened without these restrictions and guiding flourished on Everest. Now there are as many as 1000 people at base camp and crowded conditions on summit attempts using fixed ropes and ladders set by guides.
The recent deaths on Everest caused by overcrowding was evidenced by a photo that has since gone viral. This wasn’t the first Everest catastrophe: Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air tells the story of a terrible storm in 1996, in which a large number of people perished on the way up and on the way down.
Chris Bonington discusses the causes of the recent deaths and suggests solutions in a series of interviews by Rick Crandall. He also gives a thumbnail history of serious climbing and answers questions about attitudes towards risks, death and the next extreme climbing challenges in his frank and direct style.