A woman who only took up climbing four years ago has become the first British female to climb the world’s fourth highest mountain.
Bonita Norris added the 8,516m (27,940ft) Lhotse to her tally on Sunday, her third 8,000m mountain.
The Berkshire climber summited neighbouring Everest with Kenton Cool two years ago, which at the time made her the youngest British woman to reach the top of the world’s highest mountain.
She has also climbed Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest peak, at 8,156m (26,759 ft).
Ms Norris faced difficult conditions on Lhotse, with loose rock and a more technical climb than Everest.
She said: “I took the lead and thus was the first target for any falling rock, which was a significant problem this year for Lhotse, with many people being injured by debris.
“Lhotse is usually covered in snow, but this year it was mostly a rockclimb, with lots of dry loose rock that we had to step so delicately over so as not to cause it to crumble and fall off down the Lhotse face.”
A 50m rock face was one of the final obstacles to the summit. Ms Norris added: “I never thought I would be actually rockclimbing at 8,400m with the Himalayas spread out below me.
“Climbing with mittens, huge boots and an oxygen mask is pretty difficult. I stepped my feet down like I was walking on glass, so as not to dislodge the loose rock.”
The dangers of Himalayan mountaineering were brought home to the 24-year-old when she came across the body of a climber on the ascent.
“We passed the body of a Czech man on our route up Lhotse which is a tragic reminder of just how dangerous climbing at this level can be,” she said. “We were lucky not to have encountered any problems on our climb and now it has all sunk in I can safely say that I am happy I am alive.
“My summit day was completely void of other climbers, while on Everest there have been hundreds of people going up at a time.
“In fact, we could look out from our route on Lhotse and see the queues going up Everest, whereas we were totally alone with an entire mountain to ourselves which is what climbing mountains should be all about.
“This whole expedition had been very touch and go; never before has an Everest and Lhotse season been so marred by so much going against us.
“Our team and all those heading up Everest this season have been subjected to terrible conditions, weeks of waiting for jetstream winds to abate, colossal avalanches that wiped out camps along our route as well as a dangerous rock fall on Lhotse.
“This cumulated in days when too many climbers have rushed for summit on Everest on the same day which has tragically ended in the loss of far too many climbers this season.”
She described summiting the Himalayan peak: “The sun burst into view and the entire world seemed to be at my feet – huge Himalayan peaks so small in the distance, the clouds rolling below me like an ocean – and the beautiful colours of the dawn sky.
“I was the only person in the whole world who had this view; it was the most breathtaking moment of my life and moments like this are what make these trips worthwhile.”
Pete Gostling, marketing manager for Ms Norris’s sponsor, Karrimor, said: “We are delighted to congratulate Bonita on her achievement in becoming the youngest British female to climb Lhotse.
“Bonita’s attitude epitomises all that is Karrimor. Her achievement and ambition really reflect the ambitions of the brand and she is an amazing role model to young people and women in particular. We look forward to witnessing her take on her next challenge.”
Ms Norris is now planning an expedition to the South Pole.