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Sir Chris

Legendary mountaineer.


Sir Chris Bonington is one of the most successful expedition leaders in the history of mountaineering and has established a reputation as an outstanding motivational speaker. He uses the superbly illustrated story of his two major expeditions to Everest as a case study that is linked and tailored to the needs of the client.

Previous experience

Awards: He has spoken to companies and organisations around the world and is a visiting lecturer at Cranfield School of Management. He was honoured with the Founder's Medal of The Royal Geographical Society in 1974, the CBE in 1976 and a Knighthood in 1996. He has held many honorary appointments and currently is President of the British Orienteering Federation and LEPRA (The British Leprosy Charity), Honoury President of Mountain Wilderness, a Trustee of Outward Bound, Chairman of its Risk Management Committee, Chancellor Designate of Lancaster University, Chancellor Designate 2005 onwards and Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria 2004 onwards. He is also Chairman of Berghaus, Britain’s leading Outdoor manufacturer.

TV: He has presented many television programmes including the award winning Everest Years, Lakeland Rock and The Climbers and has written fourteen much acclaimed books, all of which have been bestsellers.

Everst: In 1970 he led the expedition that made the first ascent of the South Face of Annapurna and in 1975 achieved another first on Everest - the Hard Way, up its huge South West Face. Four strong expeditions had tried and failed. He reached the summit of Everest in 1985 at the age of fifty but the challenges that now attract him are the few exciting unclimbed peaks that are left in the World’s further ranges

Success: Reaching the highest point on earth requires teamwork of the highest level. Chris Bonington describes his own personal success in at last reaching the summit of Everest in 1985 at the age of 50, as a member of the Norwegian Everest Expedition. The expedition placed eighteen climbers and Sherpas on the summit in three separate ascents, a record for a single expedition. This was possible because of superb planning and organisation, but most of all, because of the quality of teamwork amongst expedition members.

Presentation: The leader was Arne Naess, a millionaire ship owner, and Bonington acted as his chief of staff looking after the logistics and advising on strategy. In this presentation he studies Næss’s approach to leadership and explores the dynamics of decision making within the team. Bonington was stretched to the limit in his own bid for the summit and describes how he was helped by his companions. He also shares his thoughts as he approached the summit.

He takes the audience step by step up Everest in such a vivid way that they share in the exhilaration of the climb. He constantly draws parallels between the effort on the mountain and the challenges of today’s business and management world.

The participants will join him on the first ascent of the South West Face of Everest in 1975. It was the largest and most complex expedition ever to leave Britain, tackling what is arguably the most daunting challenge in the history of climbing - Everest the Hard Way. Five strong expeditions had already tried and failed. He will first take participants through the planning process and then on to the climb itself, setting the scene, giving all the relevant information but then asking the delegates for their solutions to the problems involved.

The topics examined are ones of leadership and group dynamics rather than climbing tactics. This approach enables the entire group to participate in the climb, exploring different ways to deal with issues as they occur in his story of the expedition. In the course of the discussion he brings the participants back to their own workday challenges and encourages them to compare these with the issues that we explore on the mountain.

As the story unfolds, he involves the group in helping him solve some of the challenges or dilemmas with which he is confronted on the way. These include:
• Motivating the Sherpa work force;
• Dealing with conflicts of interest caused by individual ambition amongst team members;
• Selecting the summit teams;
• Motivating the rest;
• Coping with crisis and tragedy when Mick Burke goes missing high on Everest; and
• Analysing mistakes as well as successes.

Because the presentation is interactive, the participants not only absorb more of the lessons, but having helped form them, take on greater ownership of the leadership and team building principles brought out by the climb books, all of which have bestsellers.

Chris took to the high ground in sharing a lifetime’s experience in managing risk at the pointy-end. He mixed passion with a very rational approach to fulfilling his ambition-very inspirational. APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority)

“…here was a man of absolute integrity and unimpeachable moral values. Despite his obvious drive, determination and ambition to conquer all obstacles I thought the realisation that preservation of life itself is SO much more important (for himself, anyone lucky enough to be part of his team AND for ‘outsiders’ in need of assistance) spoke volumes for his character. An impressive and inspiring man.

Deutsche Bank Australia

It was a wonderful to meet one of the most inspirational climbers of all time - throughout the night Chris most generously shared his thoughts and views with the audience, sharing with us the highs and lows of his chosen sport. He was able to demonstrate how the principles he applied to his mountaineering can be applied in the context of our lives and careers - a most entertaining and informative evening!

Babcock & Brown


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