Interview Interview With Bonita Norris

Interview With Bonita Norris

Reaching the top of Everest as an experienced mountaineer? That’s tough. Now, how about taking on that task without ever having climbed before? (Stairs don’t count.)

Your story is incredible, why did you decide to undertake such an extreme challenge?

Quite simply because it inspired me so much. Back in 2008, I was at a lecture about Mt Everest at the Royal Geographical Society and felt like I was struck by a bolt of lightening when the presenter explained how he had seen the curvature of the Earth from Everest's summit. From that moment I knew I wanted to become a mountaineer, I had never felt so determined in my entire life. My problem was, I didn't have a clue where to start, and I was intimidated. I spent months telling myself that audacious challenges like climbing Mt Everest couldn't be for people like me. I soon realized that if I wasn't careful, I would go through life passing up on every challenge that inspired me. Despite how scared I was of embarking on this journey, it scared me more to think I could get to the end of my life having not tried at all. I said to myself one morning, about 3 months after the lecture "just give it your best shot, and if it comes to nothing, at least you can say you tried". With that one almost thoughtless thought, I found the courage to take my first step onto the road less travelled.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when you reached the summit of Everest?

"Ok, now we have to get back down" I had mentally prepared myself to think of the summit as the half way point. It was only when we reached base camp three days later that the emotions finally came. My thoughts on reaching the safety of base camp were just utter relief and disbelief. I just couldn't believe it was real. I had seen the curvature of the Earth from the top of the world. I had pushed myself harder than I ever thought possible. It made me realize that we are far more capable than what we first think.

What is the next challenge on your radar?

Everest was just the beginning. Since 2009 I have been on 5 Himalayan expeditions, skied to the North Pole and set up a climbing holidays company. I am currently planning an expedition to the Himalayas in 2016. I am aiming to climb an 8000m peak without the use of supplementary oxygen, a feat not achieved by a British woman since Alison Hargreaves in 1995. I will be fundraising for the people of Nepal who were affected by the earthquake. After that, I have many more expeditions planned, but climbing is not my be-all and end-all - I am equally inspired by being a motivational speaker and running my own businesses. Climbing mountains and setting up businesses on the surface look quite different, but fundamentally the things that drive you to see something through to the end are the same.

How did you keep your motivation up when you were struggling with setbacks during the build up to your climb?

The period leading up to Everest was the toughest of my life. But, no matter how bad things got, I found that I just couldn't give up on a dream that I was so passionate about. It was the passion that ultimately kept me motivated. We have to be passionate about our reasons for doing something, if not our goals eventually becomes meaningless and fighting back from failure pointless. For me, the biggest motivation was the excitement of knowing that I was actively working towards making my dream a reality. Saying that, most days I would wake up feeling the weight of Everest on my chest, and so overwhelmed by the challenges ahead I would want to give up before I'd started. I realized I was always on the cusp of giving up. I needed to employ mental techniques to keep me motivated when my emotions got on top of me. I learned many techniques, which I use to this day. Looking back, I essentially tricked myself into climbing Mt Everest. My mind was convinced I was doomed to failure, wracked with self-doubt and often terrified, but I consciously managed to convince myself to try again, take one more step, just keep going. It's truly incredible that our minds can be our worst enemy and simultaneously our greatest asset.

What is the ideal way to spend your weekends?

In the outdoors, surrounded by friends and family. For me, that is what life is all about.

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