Bonita Norris: from the summit of Mt Everest to inspiring the nation’s children

WE TALK to Bonita Norris about becoming the youngest woman to climb to the summit of Everest and her work today as a Get Outside Champion.

Bonita Norris

From May 2010 until May 2012 Bonita Norris was the youngest woman to reach the summit of Everest


BONITA NORRIS was always encouraged and supported by her parents in her sporting passions but no-one could have imagined what she would go on to achieve.


Having been a keen runner when she was young she came from a family in which no-one else climbs and it was quite literally a spur-of-a-moment thing when she decided to climb the world’s most revered mountain.


What makes Bonita’s story so touching to read is the passion she exudes to help and guide other young people in achieving as much as they can and to go out and explore the wonderful world we live in. 


She was the youngest woman to reach the summit of Everest but the even greater challenge she has set herself is to inspire the minds of a nation’s children and help them realise and accomplish their dreams.


When did you first realise you had a passion for the mountains and climbing?


When I was at university I went to a lecture about Mount Everest. I was 20 years old and had never climbed before, but I knew then that I wanted to become a mountaineer.


How did where you grew up help you to pursue your hobby and who were any important people in terms of encouraging you to climb and explore?


I had a very happy upbringing in Wokingham, and my sport was athletics. I was a runner and the lessons I’ve learnt from my training, about pushing through pain and boredom and of realising that I am often far more capable than what I first think definitely put me in good stead for my grown up adventures. Doing athletics and running as a kid gave me the mindset and attitude that it’s about training and hard work and gradual improvement to get to where you want to be.


That’s why I think sport is so important for young people and that’s why I work as a Get Outside Champion for Ordnance Survey.


I am lucky to have very supportive (if bemused) parents. No one else in my family climbs, but my parents were great role models in the sense that they ran their own businesses, and showed us how important it is to be self reliant and to understand that if you want something in life, you alone can make it happen.


Bonita Norris

Once Bonita had decided she wanted to climb Everest it took her two years from the planning stage to reaching the summit.


Tell us about the planning and build up to your summit of Mount Everest?


I started from scratch, a complete novice, so the planning was essentially – learn how to climb and somehow find around £50,000 to pay for the expedition. It took me two years from start to finish and meant I went on many adventures, including the Alps and to the Himalayas where I climbed an 8000m peak as training. I also found a sponsor, VocaLink, who changed my life as it meant I could go on the expedition – it took me over a year to find them after making hundreds if not thousands of cold calls to British businesses.


How did it feel to become youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 22 and how did you find the media attention that came with this?


The record is totally meaningless in someways as my achievement was in no better than any of my team mates that I stood on the summit with.


However, it captured my sponsors attention, and then the attention of the media, so I am very thankful that the stars aligned and I was able to climb Everest at the age I was. Without the record, I probably would never have gotten sponsored and would never have been able to climb the mountain, so I am incredibly grateful for it.


Bonita Norris

Oxygen masks are essential when climbing the world’s most famous mountain.


Tell us a little more about that summit and some of the many hardships and challenges you faced on the climb?


Climbing Everest and just BEING on Everest was the best experience of my life. I was so happy. I felt with every fibre in my body that I was supposed to be on that mountain, as if in someway I’d been there before. I woke up every morning just in disbelief at how lucky I was and how right it felt to be climbing this big hill. I was very much at one with myself and the mountain and that was a truly wonderful way to feel.


The ascent went very smoothly though I got into trouble on my way down, thankfully it was short lived and I got back to camp with the help of my team mates, without them though, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it back to camp alive.


Bonita Norris

This picture shows the harsh reality of climbing Everest.


What have been some of you other climbing accomplishments since and could you tell us about the current challenge you are working towards?


Since Everest I have skied to the North Pole, climbed 2 more peaks in the Himalayas, Lead two Kilimanjaro treks, and most recently I climbed the worlds 4th highest mountain, becoming the first British woman to do so. I also present the Red Bull Cliff Diving show on Dave and have been lucky to travel all over the world- from the Middle East to South America, the USA and Asia to film with Red Bull over the last 3 years.


How do you most spend your time when you’re not training for or taking part in climbing expeditions?


I work with Ordnance Survey as a Get Outside Champion, encouraging everyone no matter their age to make a commitment to getting outside more often.


I am also a motivational speaker and probably now the most in demand youth speaker in the UK. I visit over 80 schools a year and spoke to around 40,000 school kids in 2015 alone. I’m hoping to inspire a whole generation of British kids to aim high and realise their potential.


What would you message be to those, particularly young women, who take inspiration from your achievements and perseverance in whatever in life you do?


I’d say to people that you can do anything, absolutely anything you put your mind to, as long as you’re willing to go above and beyond, to work harder than you’ve ever worked, to commit fully even when you most want to give up, and to not use barriers or setbacks as excuses as to why you can’t achieve your goals.


Ask “why not” before deciding something is not possible. Be a problem solver, not someone who follows the status quo. Don’t let other people’s voices cloud your judgement. Be a maverick.  But most importantly, just putting yourself out there, just trying, even a little bit, can often yield amazing results, so don’t be afraid to try. The most important thing is to keep trying every single day, even the tiniest amount of effort will add up to surprisingly big steps towards your dreams.


Remember, most people won’t try, most people will hit the snooze button, most people will give up. Don’t be one of those people. Trust in the little steps, and have faith in yourself.


Limitless Pursuits

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