Friday, 4 November 2016

Chris Bonington-Mountaineer...reviewed

First published in by Diadem in 1989 and edited by the late Ken Wilson, Chris Bonington-Mountaineer, charted the remarkable climbing career of someone,who even 30 years ago, was THE public face of British mountaineering. Since then, his fame and influence has only continued to grow to the extent that the genial knight of the realm is recognised and respected wherever people climb mountains.  Chris Bonington Mountaineer originally set out to detail through words and images, his outdoor life, from youthful early days wandering in Somerset’s Quantock hills, to later military style expeditions in the Greater Ranges, where his organisational skills came into their own.

The book was no searing, in depth autobiography but a simple coffee table tome which set out to record his global and domestic campaigns in a photo-journalistic style. The substance and strength of the book was in its photographs with the matter of fact text simply outlining what was going on at the time when the image was recorded. Fast forward almost 30 years and the fifty something action man has become an 80 something grizzled veteran and survivor. Where many have fallen, Chris has overcome triumph and tragedy and remained in the saddle to reach an age when many of his generation who have come this far, have fallen into decrepitude. By contrast, ‘rage,raging against the dying of the light’, he remains ever the activist. Climbing The Old Man of Hoy with young whippersnapper, Leo Holding in his 80th year! Good fortune or simply living a healthy life? Whatever the reasons for his continued rude health, his exploits in the great outdoors continue to delight and astound the mountain community.

Atop the Old Man of Hoy with Leo Holding:Photo Berghaus

Vertebrate’s 2016 re-issue takes to story forward to the present day. Still chock full of those classic early photographs of people and places,including iconic figure like Don Whillans and Nick Escourt, his post 89 adventures have been brought in to bring his mountain life up to date. Further expeditions to the greater ranges of course, but also recent excursions in Morocco, The USA and Greenland with lifelong friends. Climbing simply for the sheer pleasure of it rather than as part of a sponsored siege of an unclimbed peak.

Given the quality of the images-and not all photographs included were taken by Chris- those interested in photography would be interested to discover what cameras were used to record what are overwhelmingly, outstanding images. Well, Chris is very much an Olympus man. In the footnotes at the back of the book he tells us that he switched to Olympus in 1974 and never changed. Attracted by the introduction of the compact SLR, he generally used Olympus cameras and lenses with Kodachrome film-25/64 above the snowline and 200 below. The Olympus addiction continued into the digital age and he continues to use the OM-D and four third system Pens. Although he confesses to increasingly use an iPhone 6 to record his adventures.

Go North Young Man:
Chris Bonington Mountaineer is out on the 7th November and available direct from Vertebrate or as they say in the trade- from all good book sellers.

John Appleby:2016