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Sir Chris Bonington, the Lancaster University Chancellor, will abseil down Bowland Tower on Sunday Week 9. His abseil is aimed to commemorate Lancaster’s 50th anniversary while raising money for charity. Bonington will be joined on the abseil by 70 members of Lancaster University, among them both students and staff, who bought tickets to take part in the event.
Bonington is expected to perform the abseil off Bowland Tower twice, the first being at midday on Sunday Week 9, followed by another at 2pm the same day.
Bonington spoke to SCAN about how the abseil came about. “In 2012 I abseiled down The Shard, then the highest building in Europe in a fundraiser for Outward Bound,” Bonington said. “It seemed a fun idea to do the same on the Bowland Tower to mark our 50th Anniversary and the ends of my term of office.”
The abseil is being facilitated by the Highpoint Mountain Guides, who provide climbing courses in the Lake District, Peak District and north-west Scotland. As well as marking the University’s 50th anniversary, the event is also in aid of several charities, including The Student Hardship Fund, Ageing Research, Food Security and St. John’s Hospice, as well as for The Dukes Theatre’s MAKE Project.
The abseil is one of several ways in which the Chancellor will be helping Lancaster celebrate its 50th Anniversary. “There are a load of other events I’m going to take part in including some alumni celebrations,” Bonington said. “I’ve had the privilege to meet alumni from all over the world and I’ve attended events in Australia, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as many in the UK.
“I’m particularly grateful to those alumni who are donors and members of the Chancellor’s Guild (people who have donated more than £1,000 in total to the University).”
Bonington became Chancellor of Lancaster University in 2004, succeeding HRH Princess Alexandra, who spent 40 years in the role. At the end of 2014 Bonington will pass on the Chancellor’s robes to Rt. Hon Alan Milburn, concluding his full 10 years in the position. SCAN asked Bonington how he felt coming to the end of his time as Lancaster’s Chancellor. “I’ve enjoyed it immensely – and it’s gone incredibly quickly – but having a clearly defined five- and five-year term meant I could focus on giving it my all for that period.”
“There is so much I have enjoyed but my time with the students has been very special, particularly climbing with the mountaineering club and walking with the hikers,” Bonington continued. “It’s also been great getting involved with the Students’ Union, having the outgoing and incoming officers to lunch each year: going for a walk up High Pike – the hill behind our house – and finishing up in The Old Crown, our local pub. Playing croquet and, this year, bowls at Roses has also been fun.”
Renowned for his life as a climber and mountaineer, Bonington began his climbing career in 1951, aged 16. This career has included 19 expeditions to the Himalayas, four of which were ascending Mount Everest. He has written numerous books and briefly taught mountaineering as well. He was awarded an honorary degree in 1983 by Lancaster University and was knighted in 1996.
In August 2014 Bonington will be celebrating his 80th birthday. However, he has no intention of slowing down once he retires as Lancaster’s Chancellor. “I want to keep on climbing and walking through my 80s, keep up my work as a non-executive Chairman of Berghaus [the outdoor clothing retailer] and help the many charities I’m involved in.”
Bonington also hopes that retiring as Chancellor will not mean goodbye. “I’m sure I’ll get invited back to all kinds of functions and I hope to keep climbing with the mountaineers and walking with the hikers from time to time.
“I’ve come to love this university of ours and will always cherish it.”