Sunday 21 March 2004, BBC ONE North East
& Cumbria, 1.25- 2.05pm
One of the best of the new generation of young climbers, Leo
Houlding, teams up with one of the greatest legends in mountaineering
for a BBC ONE documentary to be shown on Sunday (21 March 2004, BBC
ONE North East & Cumbria, 1.25pm).
Appleby-born Leo takes his hero, Sir Chris Bonington,
out to Australia for three gruelling climbs in the fabulous Blue Mountains
near Sydney to learn more about a British climbing legend.
Leo says: "Chris is one of my heroes and my inspiration. I've
got to know him pretty well in the last few years, but until now we
have never climbed together.
"It doesn't matter that he's almost 70 and I'm 23. I'm really
looking forward to climbing with him."
Over three climbs with thrilling close-up action shots of Leo moving
swiftly up sheer vertical rock faces, the protégé learns more about
Sir Chris says: "I've got a deep, passionate love for the mountains.
I love the Lake District. That's the core that keeps me going."
As young and old start their first climb, Sir Chris tells Leo about
his life and how he got into climbing. He says: "My Dad walked out after
nine months and it was my grandmother who brought me up while my mum
went out working. I always had a terrific void of not having a father
and other kids did.
"My mum had a bad nervous breakdown and it was hard for me because
I was not allowed to see her. It was a hard time and I was desperately
He was introduced to climbing at 16 by his German grandfather in Ireland
and has never stopped since.
"I climb for pleasure, not for challenges," says Sir Chris. "And then
various challenges have crept into it. Whether all of those things are
compensation for my disturbed upbringing, I just don't know."
Sir Chris says the support of his wife of 42 years, Wendy, has been
crucial to his climbing career. He worked as a margarine salesman when
they met in 1962 and it was his newly-wed wife who encouraged him to
leave his job and take a career in mountaineering.
Sir Chris became famous with the successful 1975 expedition to the
world's highest mountain, Everest, but it was not until 1985 that he
himself reached the top.
"I did not realise how important it was for me to get to the top of
Everest. I was 50. It was important emotionally," says Sir Chris.
Leo was only five when Sir Chris reached the summit of Everest.
Sir Chris says: "I first became aware of Leo when he was 12 or 13 and
climbing various road-side crags in the Lake District. He's one of the
most brilliant young climbers who I have seen in a long time.
"The concern is that he's climbing at the absolute edge the whole
time and he's addicted to risk."
But over the years, Chris has had a few close escapes and bad falls.
His longest fall was about 1,000 feet before the rope he was on held
But Sir Chris tells Leo: "I very nearly bought it on Lochnagar about
three years ago.
"I fell about 80 metres, I was definitely facing down and I could
see the whole rock face down below me. I thought 'this is it, I have
had it' and I also thought 'is it going to hurt?' and at that point
the rope came tight."
The idea for this television programme came from a poll of people on
the BBC Cumbria website - www.bbc.co.uk/cumbria
- on local legends.
Sir Chris adds that his media persona does not match reality.
"The image the public have is one where I am an adventurous, powerful
and strong icon. This is far from the truth because I am quite an old
softie and not at all that kind of person."
The Adventure Is Not Yet Over is a Triple Echo Productions programme
for BBC North East & Cumbria.