How Chris Bonington scaled the heights from Almscliffe to Everest

Sir Chris Bonnington in Harrogate. Picture: Charlotte Graham
Sir Chris Bonnington in Harrogate. Picture: Charlotte Graham

AT a little under 700ft, the hilly outcrop on the outskirts of Harrogate known as Almscliffe Crag is some way from Everest down the scale of difficulty.

But Sir Chris Bonington, who has been to the 29,000ft Himalayan peak four times, revealed today that it was on the millstone grit of Almscliffe that he cut his teeth.

“My first girlfriend was from Harrogate and I came here in 1953 to meet her parents,” Sir Chris told The Yorkshire Post, on a return visit there, to speak about Ascent, his new volume of autobiography.

“I remember we went out and climbed Almscliffe Crag on the same visit, added Sir Chris, who would have been 19 at the time.

His new book is a personal memoir detailing not only his 19 Himalayan expeditions but also the death of his wife, the children’s illustrator Wendy Bonington, from motor neurone disease, three years ago.

“I have written about caring for Wendy during her illness and about my children,” said Sir Chris, whose three-year-old son, Conrad, died in an accident in 1966. He had been on an expedition to the Amazon when he received the news.

“There is grief and there’s hardship and there’s a load of happiness,” he said.

“I have had the great good fortune of falling in love again,” added the 83-year-old, who last year married Loreto McNaught-Davis, widow of the mountaineer and TV presenter Ian McNaught-Davis who died in 2014.

“My state of mind now is great,” he said.

He was in Harrogate to speak at the latest Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch, organised as part of the Harrogate Literature Festival.

“I enjoy these events and especially the questions from the floor - you never know what is going to be asked,” he said.

After a speech in Cheltenham last week, he had to issue a “clarification” after he appeared to criticise mountain rescuers.

“Anyone who knows me will be in no doubt that I hold those involved in mountain rescue in the highest regard,” he said.

He told today’s audience he had turned down a career as a margarine salesman with Unilever to pursue his dream of being a professional explorer.