The Villain

Alpine Bound

Chris (now Sir) Bonington is on the pillion, saying adieu to his young wife Wendy, of Don Whillans’s Triumph Trophy at Hampstead in July 1962. Note the rudimentary riding gear, goggles and gauntlets which were obviously considered quite adequate equipment for long distance touring at the time. They were off to climb the Eiger in Switzerland, and rode all the way across Europe then up the track to the foot of the mountain.

Crashing spectacularly on the way back down when the brakes failed, Don apparently shoved Chris off before baling out himself, thus saving both from serious injury. More famous than Bonington in those days, Whillans was a hard man on the rocks, in the pub and on a motorcycle.

Enjoying a little sponsorship from Triumph, before this exploit to the Alps Whillans had shipped his 1957 Trophy out to Karachi in May 1960 to join an expedition to the Himalaya. After about eight weeks climbing and with only about £45 left in his pocket, he left Rawalpindi in September for the 7000 mile ride home to Manchester. The first 2000 miles were on dirt roads and, apart from numerous punctures and a broken mudguard, the bike seems to have caused no trouble. If it had Meriden no doubt would have been treated to a furious blast of invective from the ’ard man in the flat ’at (as he was known).

The ‘ard man would have been 88 today.

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