For Chris Bonington and Charles Clarke, long-time friends and expedition partners, few mountains were more alluring than Sepu Kangri. Known locally as ‘the Great White Snow God’, Tibet’s nearly 7,000-metre mountain had never before been visited by Westerners. Armed only with a tourist map for reference, the two set off for this elusive peak in 1996.
In the reconnaissance and two expeditions that followed, neither of them were expecting to be profoundly impacted by their experiences. However, they not only met their match in Sepu Kangri, but both found their expertise pushed to the limit. While Clarke acted as a travelling doctor, treating myriad ailments encountered along the way, including a life-saving diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, Bonington’s love of technology saw him testing out cutting-edge satellite phones and computers, allowing them to communicate with the outside world for the first time on an expedition.
Tibet’s Secret Mountain is a story of discovery as much as it is an account of the expeditions, and it is this that sets it apart from other mountaineering memoirs. The focus not only on the climbing itself, but the experiences, people and tensions that accompany it, offers a poignancy that anyone with a love of adventure will identify with. Beautifully written and full of unfailing cheer, Tibet’s Secret Mountain is Bonington and Clarke’s love letter to mountaineering.