HAVING clocked up 60 years of amazing mountaineering and exploration adventures, Sir Chris Bonington has a treasure trove of tales of derring-do exploits to choose from when he comes to Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre.

One of Britain’s most famous ever climbers, Sir Chris has been on 19 expeditions to the Himalayas and four to Everest.

His memories are of great challenges overcome, glorious triumphs, the stuff of Boy’s Own stories but also, given the nature of the sport, episodes of tragedy.

And as much as he is looking forward to reminiscing at the Alhambra, Sir Chris, now 76, is still planning ahead and seeking new feats to achieve.

“There are a number of anniversaries this year and I’ll be looking back and sharing my memories,” he told the Press.

“It’s the 50th anniversary of my first Himalayan expedition to Annapurna II when I was a young man of 26 and still in the army.

“It’s also the 40th anniversary of the climb on the south face of Annapurna, which was in the most challenging of conditions and an epic story.

“The other anniversary is that it’s 25 years since I finally reached the summit of Everest.

“That meant an awful lot to me, more than I realised at the time.

“We reached the summit on a beautiful day, spent half an hour there and the view from the top of Everest is quite incredible.” Sir Chris had been expedition leader on the unsuccessful 1972 attempt on the south-west face of Everest, the most difficult route.

However, he returned three years later and this time the summit was reached, although not by Sir Chris, who was again leader of the group.

That climb had claimed the life of one of the climbers, cameraman Mick Burke, and an unsuccessful attempt on K2 in 1978 saw another death.

In 1982 two of his team died on an Everest climb and Sir Chris said, “The worst part is when you lose people.

"The expedition can be gloriously successful but then that casts a dark shadow over it.

“You accept risks, similar to our young soldiers in Afghanistan who could lose their lives at any time.

“There is an acceptance it can happen but that in no way takes away from the grief and sadness you feel when a tragedy occurs.” He recalled the death of Ian Clough at the end of the successful climb of Annapurna in 1970.

“Ian was a great friend and climber and we had completed the climb and were clearing up.

"There was only one remaining potentially dangerous part to get through.” That was a serac or huge ice pillar on the mountains lower slopes which the team had to pass under.

“There is always the danger of an ice fall but because you are only at risk for five minutes or so the chances of it happening at that moment are rare but that’s what happened and Ian was killed.” Another expedition - the first ascent of Ogre in Pakistan - almost ended in disaster when climbing companion Doug Scott broke both legs and Chris broke two ribs shortly after reaching the summit, which is just under 24,000 ft.

They had to negotiate a heroic week-long descent with Doug having to crawl all the way in a major storm.

“That was a situation where we had to go without food for five days and it wasn’t at all clear whether we would survive.

"However, we got back down and the climb had been a success with no lives lost.” In 1967, Sir Chris had been involved in the live televised climb of the iconic stack, the Old Man of Hoy in Orkney, having been first to climb it the year before.

The broadcast was a huge success with millions of viewers tuning in to see climbs over three days.

Sir Chris has seen many changes over the years and the popularity of mountaineering and open access to commercial operators means that on Everest now “people are literally queuing up to climb it”.

He may be 76 but Sir Chris is certainly not over the hill. He’s still very active, is Chancellor of Lancaster University, a renowned writer, motivational speaker and always looking ahead to the next challenge.

“My ambition is to keep going as long as I can.

"Obviously as you grow older the standard you’re at goes down but I still love to be on the mountains.” Indeed, Sir Chris will be climbing in Borneo soon and next spring has another overseas trip planned with Dr Charles Clarke, the doctor on many of his expeditions, when they will be looking to conquer more unclimbed peaks.

Sir Chris Bonington will give his talk at the Alhambra next Friday (24th) at 7.30pm. Tickets are £15 and available from the theatre and Abbot House.