Magazine article Geographical

I'M A GEOGRAPHER: Bonita Norris Is an Adventurer, Public Speaker and Television Presenter, Who Climbed Mount Everest in 2010 after Attending an RGS-IBG Lecture Two Years Earlier. Her New Book, the Girl Who Climbed Everest, Is on Sale Now

Magazine article Geographical

I'M A GEOGRAPHER: Bonita Norris Is an Adventurer, Public Speaker and Television Presenter, Who Climbed Mount Everest in 2010 after Attending an RGS-IBG Lecture Two Years Earlier. Her New Book, the Girl Who Climbed Everest, Is on Sale Now

Article excerpt

I wasn't driven to climb Everest from hearing about it as a kid, or anything like that. If I hadn't gone to that [RGS-IBG] lecture, I don't think I would have ever started climbing; it was that moment that the spark was ignited. The fact that I saw Kenton Cool and Rob Casserley on stage, they both just seemed really down to Earth, hearing them say things like 'You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to climb Everest'. Having that person in front of you is so important. If someone is there to lead the way or has gone somewhere before you then it's always much easier.

I love climbing. I loved the idea of climbing Everest. Was I a world-class climber, or anywhere near that? No, but I was also a lot more experienced than most people on the mountain, because I'd climbed an 8,000m peak before that. At the time I didn't think that my experience was an issue. But I look back and realise I was nowhere near as skilled a mountaineer as I am now. The truth is that Everest is not the kind of mountain you'd go to if you were a world-class climber. Just to go and climb the normal route is for people that aren't the world's best climbers--that's just the way it is.

I left the mountain feeling quite sad to be going. There was really no world outside Everest for me during all that time. I never thought about anything but that mountain, and then suddenly it was gone. I was quite traumatised by that. When I got home, I was sitting with my parents on the sofa, and the news came on: 'Youngest British woman to climb Everest returns home'. It did feel like 'is this real?' For weeks on end I could open any newspaper and see a story about myself. I could never have imagined it on that scale. It was just crazy, the press banging on the door. It was a very confusing time that you'll never be prepared for unless you've actually gone through it before.

I've met and debated with people that really don't like Everest, but have never been anywhere near it. They don't like what it represents. For some people Everest is seen as a rich man's playground, where nature and indigenous locals are exploited for the sake of a photograph on the summit. I get that, because there are those kinds of people there. But they are the tiniest percentage of people. Most people that I've ever met climbing are just lovely, caring, completely inspired by nature, want to protect the world that they live in, and just want to make the most of their life on Earth. So I don't have a problem with the media focusing on Everest at all, but I do have a problem when it's this sensationalised idea of Everest, which is actually nothing like the Everest that I know and love. …

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