Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Chris Bonington marks birthday with Old Man of Hoy climb

Veteran climber Sir Chris Bonington is in peak condition after celebrating his 80th birthday.

Bonington Hoy climb photo
Sir Chris Bonington and Leo Houlding on the summit

At a time of life when most people are taking it easy, the legendary mountaineer has tackled again one of his most famous climbs – the Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney Islands.

Bonington made the gruelling climb in deteriorating weather conditions to celebrate his 80th birthday earlier this month, and to raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease (MND) charities in memory of his wife Wendy, who died of the condition in July.

He completed it 48 years after his first ascent of the famous sea stack when he was just 32, this time with fellow Cumbrian climber Leo Houlding – himself the youngest person ever to have climbed it.

The pair had to wait 24 hours for a window in the weather before they could start their climb. As the weather threatened to close in they reached the top in deteriorating conditions

Back in 1966, Sir Chris – who lives near Caldbeck – made the historic climb of the 449ft Old Man with Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey. Bonington and Patey returned the following year and were part of a famous three-night long live TV outside broadcast, The Great Climb.

Leo, now 33 from Bolton near Appleby, started climbing before he was 10-years-old and was just 11 when he first scaled the Old Man of Hoy.

Sir Chris said after the climb: “I am exhausted, but very happy. Climbing with Leo is always a pleasure and his support certainly helped me get up the more difficult sections. I’m definitely not as lithe or flexible as I was in the 1960s.

“It was a very emotional moment at the top. I was delighted to have completed the climb, but of course I was also thinking about Wendy, who was my rock during all of my previous trips, whether near or far. I hope that people who hear about this climb will take the time to find out a bit more about motor neurone disease and help us to raise some money to fund research into finding a cure.”

Lady Wendy Bonington died from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) just 18 months after being diagnosed,

Leo said: “The old man was amazing on the Old Man. Chris was a hero of mine as I grew up and I’m now lucky enough to be able to call him a good friend.

“I’ve seen the footage of the 1967 outside broadcast – it was one of the iconic moments in British climbing and fired the imagination of the public.

“It has been a great privilege to return to Hoy with Chris, who never fails to amaze me with his appetite for adventure. Oh, and he can certainly still climb very well. Is he really 80?”


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