At the end of January I had the privilege of capturing an event which I am unlikely to forget anytime soon. I had been contacted by Panache (a Sheffield based international lingerie and sportswear company) and asked to take some shots at a ‘community event’ they were running. I knew that it was being held at a couple of climbing centres in Sheffield (Climbing Works and Awesome Walls) and that a model of theirs, who had some link with climbing, would be speaking to school groups in order to inspire them. Little did I know I would be meeting Bonita Norris, the youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mt Everest in 2010 at the age of just 22. Not only that, but she only started climbing at 20 having decided to make Everest her goal after attending a talk by Kenton Cool (whose current Everest summit count is at 11). When she contacted him asking where a newbie climber should start on this rather ambitious goal he gave her plenty of advice and suggested it would likely take around ten years to get to Everest climbing ability. She did it in two.
Never have I met someone who more embodies the word ‘driven’. The great thing was she didn’t sugar coat her story for the kids (thought she did leave out the slightly more terrifying bits, saving them for her afternoon talk with some older amateur climbers). She told them that her first mountain climb had been one of the worst experiences of her life, she’d cried at night in her tent willing the trip to be over. But she persevered. She focussed on how far she’d come and, when she’d completed the climb, how she’d achieved the goal despite her struggle. And so she continued to persevere, knowing that the harder she worked, the more physical and emotional barriers she pushed past, and the closer she would be to reaching Everest. She wasn’t there to tell the kids to keep dreaming, she was there to tell them to work bloody hard till they reached those dreams. And then keep going. Because, of course, she’s climbed many mountains since Everest and aims to climb the second highest (and widely accepted as the most difficult) in the world later this year.
I could waffle all day about how inspiring her talks were, how brilliant the philosophy she has is, and how we could all learn a thing or two from her… but I’d rather you heard it from her! Go check her out on Twitter @bonitanorris (I mean just look at her bio!) and if you ever get the chance to see her speak, take it. I have absolutely no ambition to climb anything higher than the many hills of Sheffield, and just watching her speed up the heights of Awesome Walls made me feel slightly nauseous, but I came away more inspired than ever to work at my own big (but firmly rooted at sea level) goals.