The Greater Ranges

Don took his power and skills further afield: The Alps, Himalayas, Patagonia. Again putting up inspiring first ascents on difficult lines that stymied his contemporaries.


I’ve posted a similar image before, but here it is a a different light. A late fifties shot of Triumph Tiger pilot Whillans and pillion Chris Bonington setting off for an attempt on the notorious Eigerwand.


This is recreated in the eighties about the same time as yesterdays posts subject. Both travel worn and aged but still a twinkle in their eyes.


Here’s Don & Chris in the Alps at the Central Pillar of Freney, a severe rock face high up on the Mont Blanc massif.


Exploits took him to the South Face of Annapurna.


And Karakoram…


He developed mountaineering equipment: the expedition box tent, Whillans climbing harness. A background as a plumber not only strengthened forearms..


This image epitomizes his later years. An ’81 expedition to Gangotri – the ubiquitous monsoon season brolly strapped to his Adidas bag and approaching rake-thin yogi set the scene for one of Don’s tales:
Whillans rounded a bend and stood face to face with a mysterious Indian in a large turban. As was customary, the Indian held out his hand to receive a contribution. “Hmm, are you on some sort of sponsored walk?” asked Whillans and shook the surprised man’s hand.


What a place to sit with a brew, smoking a fag after a good day on the mountain… A deepening shadow in the Chamonix valley and the Aiguille Rouges deepening in color of an Alpine sunset.

Though my favorite tale is this one while participating in the 1972 European Everest Expedition. The atmosphere was not the best among the various nationalities, no one wanted to carry loads because everyone was saving himself for a possible summit attempt. The German climbers heard on the radio that England had lost a soccer game to Germany. The conversation went “It seems that we have beaten you in your national sport”, said a proud German to Don. After a minimal pause Don replied “Aye lad, and we’ve beaten you at yours, twice.”

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