Entity Type:
Venables, Stephen M W (1954-)
Venables, Stephen M W (1954-)
Stephen Venables began mountaineering at a time when the big set-piece expedition dinosaurs of the post-war period were thrashing in their death-throes but the commercial guiding/trekking industry was yet to seriously invade the Himalayan stage. There followed a brief Golden Age of classically British amateur expeditioning in the understated lightweight mould of Tilman and Shipton. The new wave had been signposted by Dick Renshaw and Joe Tasker with their remarkable 1974 epic ascent of the Garhwal peak Dunagiri, but taking up the baton in the 80s were a diverse bunch of eccentrics such as Dave Wilkinson, Phil Bartlett, Mick Fowler, ‘Slippery’ Vic Saunders - and the cerebral and wittily avuncular Stephen Venables. Venables threw himself into a series of exploratory mountaineering ventures throughout the 80s and 90s and hit the big time in 1988 when he became the first Briton up Everest without bottled oxygen, after completing a hard new route up the Kanshung Face. This resulted in an impromptu open-air bivouac on the way down and frostbite. Even more alarming, it meant he got interviewed by Terry Wogan. Being very British, the loss of several toes was regarded as inconvenient, rather than debilitating and Venables continued his mountaineering challenges. In 1992, however, Venables suffered a near-fatal accident when an abseil anchor pulled as he descended from a successful first ascent of the Indian Himalayan peak of Panch Chuli V. The ensuing high altitude helicopter rescue by the Indian Army operating at the absolute limit of the helicopter’s ceiling has become one of the great escape stories of British climbing.
Further reading: Painted Mountains, Stephen Venables, Hodder, 1986; Everest, Alone at the Top, Stephen Venables, A Slender Thread, Stephen Venables, 2000
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Venables, Stephen M W (1954-)
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