Written By: Sir Chris Bonington
Sir Chris Bonington’s “Ascent” is an in depth memoir recalled and written from Sir Bonington himself. His whole life is laid out in front of us from his somewhat troubled childhood, his difficulty finding a career, his most notorious climbs, his charity work, his successes, failures and tragedies. Sir Bonington successfully takes the reader through a wild rollercoaster of a life of a climber and eventual knight.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of the Ascent. The book has a good mix of Sir Bonington’s climbs & expeditions, his personal life and public life. The book itself isn’t a straight forward climbing/mountaineering book but instead a rollercoaster ride on what led Sir Bonington to become the man he is today. The life lessons he learnt from being an expedition leader, climber, father, public figure, writer and husband is truly insightful, and Sir Bonington doesn’t miss a beat. From the death of his much loved wife, to his difficulties being a father, to all the media attention he got after his climb of the North-face of the Eiger, Sir Bonington recalls his thoughts and decisions, why he made them and further questions them as a wiser, older man in a clear picture. As a wannabe rookie mountaineer I was particularly exhilarated listening to the retelling of his famous climbs and expeditions. He does so with some remarkable detail, making us as the reader/listener feel as if we were there. This includes but is not limited to his successful and at times tragic climbs and expeditions in the Alps, Himalayas & Karakoram, expeditions such as the infamous K2 expedition included. Sir Bonington recalls such expeditions from the perspective of not just a fellow climber but as the expedition leader and a friend of those involved. He describes his thoughts, actions and emotions at the time of the climb and then broadens the perspective years later as an older man. This combinations makes it an intriguing and page turning read. As said above though it’s not just the action packed climbs and expeditions that makes this book fascinating it’s the lessons learnt and the journey of his whole life. We as the readers are taken through a journey of love, friendship, struggle, tragedy and happiness all within one book about one man’s life. This makes it a relatable and compelling read. However with that being said I did feel there was some parts that dragged on a little too long. For example I did feel myself losing attention whilst Sir Bonington recalled his family history before his conception. Some may find this part intriguing, even necessary for an in depth memoir and I’d agree on that note however this part of the book dragged on a little too long for me personally. All in all though I loved the book and look forward to a second listen. If you’re interested in mountaineering/climbing history, learning some of the lessons climbing/mountaineering can teach you or are just fascinated by one of if not the most famous British climbers of all time then give this book a read/listen.