Sir Chris Bonington and Leo Houlding prepare for their Old Man of Hoy climb. Photo: Dave Cuthbertson/Berghaus

Sir Chris Bonington and Leo Houlding prepare for their Old Man of Hoy climb. Photo: Dave Cuthbertson/Berghaus

Climbing elder statesman Sir Chris Bonington said his repeat of a historic first climb was an emotional experience.

The Everest summiteer successfully ascended the Old Man of Hoy yesterday at the age of 80, 48 years after posting the first climb of the Orcadian sea stack.

Fellow Berghaus climber Leo Houlding, who joined Sir Chris in the ascent of the 450ft rock column, said: “The old man was amazing on the Old Man.”

Sir Chris, who turned 80 a few weeks ago, made the climb to mark his eight decades and to raise funds for motor neurone disease, which claimed his wife Wendy’s life last month.

He said: “I am exhausted, but very happy. Climbing with Leo is always a pleasure and his support certainly helped me get up the more difficult sections.

“I’m definitely not as lithe or flexible as I was in the 1960s.

“It was a very emotional moment at the top. I was delighted to have completed the climb, but of course I was also thinking about Wendy, who was my rock during all of my previous trips, whether near or far.

“I hope that people who hear about this climb will take the time to find out a bit more about motor neurone disease and help us to raise some money to fund research into finding a cure.”

Bonington made the first ascent of the sandstone stack with Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey in 1966.

He and Patey returned the following year and were part of a three-night-long live TV outside broadcast, The Great Climb.

Leo Houlding started climbing before he was 10 years old and was just 11 when he first scaled the Old Man of Hoy. He remains the youngest person to have completed the feat.

After waiting 24 hours for a weather window on Orkney, Bonington and Houlding started their climb of the Old Man of Hoy early yesterday. Their route involved five pitches of climbing and included some very challenging sections.

As the day wore on, the weather threatened to close in and the two climbers reached the top of the Old Man at around 5pm, in deteriorating conditions.

Leo Houlding said: “Chris was a hero of mine as I grew up and I’m now lucky enough to be able to call him a good friend.

“I’ve seen the footage of the 1967 outside broadcast – it was one of the iconic moments in British climbing and fired the imagination of the public, of people like me. It has been a great privilege to return to Hoy with Chris, who never fails to amaze me with his appetite for adventure.

Leo Houlding leads a pitch on the Old Man. Photo: Dave Cuthbertson/Berghaus

Leo Houlding leads a pitch on the Old Man. Photo: Dave Cuthbertson/Berghaus

“Oh, and he can certainly still climb very well. Is he really 80?”

Matt Hickman from Berghaus, which sponsors both climbers and of which Sir Chris is chairman, witnessed the climb. He said: “The climb wasn’t straightforward and Chris showed real courage to complete it.

“As well as it being technically difficult, the weather conditions were far from perfect. The wind started to pick up considerably and rain was a constant factor all day.

“Chris and Leo both commented that the crux pitch was very wet, making it a struggle to find grip. It’s been a hard year for Chris, but his strength of character prevailed.

“He really is an inspiration to everyone who loves the outdoors.”

The climb was filmed for inclusion in BBC1’s The One Show.

More pictures and footage will be posted on Berghaus’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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