Spoken Word The Theatre


A SLENDER THREAD – Escaping disaster in the Himalaya

Like most accidents it happened on the way down. Stephen Venables and three other top British climbers had just made the first ascent of a remote Himalayan peak called Panch Chuli V. The fifth member of the team, Chris Bonington, was waiting at the camp which they had left before dawn. Descending throught the night, exhausted after nearly twenty-four hours on the move, the summit team had almost reached the safety of camp when disaster struck. The anchor securing the abseil ropes failed, sending Venables plunging down the mountainside.

He was astounded to regain consciousness and realise he had survived the 80 metre fall. But not without serious injury. Crippled with two broken legs, at nearly 6,000 metres above sea level, with a maze of complex icefalls blocking the way down to the valley, he was in a desperate predicament. What followed was a long painful struggle, but thanks to the courage and determination of his companions – and a good dose of luck – Stephen Venables did eventually escape. The story of that escape, recorded in his acclaimed book A Slender Thread, is a gripping, touching and humorous tale of survival against the odds.

SOUTH – The unclimbed summits of Antarctica

Stephen Venables first saw Starbuck Peak in 1990. Rising sheer out of the Southern Ocean, a thousand miles from the nearest city, this incredibly pointy peak on the island of South Georgia seemed the perfect inaccessible summit. Twenty-six years later Venables finally led a team to attempt it. After sitting out a blizzard for four days, the team got its lucky break and set off before dawn. After a long day of extreme climbing they reached the summit late that afternoon and only returned to camp at midnight. That fulfillment in 2016 of a long held dream, after several setbacks, was just one of many expeditions to the mountains of the far south during the last three decades.

South Georgia, with its spectacular mountains and teeming wildlife has been a favourite objective. But there have also been expeditions to the temperate rainforest of Tierra del Fuego, and to the icy shores of the Antarctic Peninsula. The only way to get to these mountains is by sea. So as well as being an account of ground-breaking climbing, skiing and exploration, this is also a story of sailing with the albatross on the Southern Ocean, aboard such famous boats as HMS Endurance and Skip Novak’s yacht Pelagic Australis.

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