SIR Chris Bonington has successfully scaled the Old Man of Hoy in memory of his late wife — nearly 50 years after he first climbed the remote 449ft sea stack in the Orkney Islands.
Incredibly Bonington, the UK’s best known mountaineer, completed the challenging ascent in blustery wind and rain just weeks after turning 80.
With fellow climber, Staveley’s Leo Houlding, Bonington hopes the event will raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease charities in memory of his wife Wendy, who died of the condition last month.
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“It was a very emotional moment at the top,” said Bonington, who started climbing in 1951 at the age of 16.
“I was delighted to have completed the climb, but of course I was also thinking about Wendy, who was my rock during all of my previous trips, whether near or far.
“I hope that people who hear about this climb will take the time to find out a bit more about motor neurone disease and help us to raise some money to fund research into finding a cure.”
Along with Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey, Bonington made the first ascent of the Old Man of Hoy in 1966.
His career has included 19 expeditions to the Himalayas, including four to Mount Everest and the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna.
Leo, 34, started climbing very young and was just 11 when he first scaled the Old Man of Hoy. He remains the youngest person to have completed the feat.
“The old man was amazing on the Old Man,” said Houlding. “Chris was a hero of mine as I grew up and I’m now lucky enough to be able to call him a good friend.”
After waiting 24 hours for a weather window, Bonington and Houlding started their climb early on Wednesday, August 20.
Their route involved five pitches of climbing and included some very difficult sections.
As the day wore on, the weather threatened to close in and the two climbers reached the top of the Old Man at around 5pm.
“I am exhausted, but very happy,” said Bonington.
“Climbing with Leo is always a pleasure and his support certainly helped me get up the more difficult sections.”
Photographs and footage from the climb will be published on the Berghaus Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The ascent was also filmed for a feature on BBC1’s The One Show, to be broadcast soon.