Weekend Warm-Up: In Conversation with Stephen Venables

British mountaineer Stephen Venables has built himself a vault of Himalayan memories over the years, full of highs and lows, wonders and terrors. In this film, he recalls the goods and bads of his more than 30 years of climbing.

He admits that mountaineering is one of those passions where, if a susceptible person tries it once, they want more and more. Climbing shows what you are capable of, mentally, emotionally and physiologically. Suddenly, limit becomes just another word.

Venables seasoned himself with 10 expeditions before summiting Everest without bottled oxygen in 1988, the first Briton to do so. For him, the natural progression was important to his success. By then, he had become used to those silent white spaces. Even if he had to rest in the snow for seven hours, en route to the summit, he was prepared.

An older, wiser Venables. Photo: Times Series


After Everest, he experienced every climber’s nightmare. His anchor came free on a descent. He fell 80m and broke both his legs. Thereafter, he chose not to risk his life in the higher ranges, rather sticking to smaller mountains out of consideration for his wife and son. The caution worked: Venables has been able to continue climbing at a high level and has survived, where many of his generation did not.