Mountaineer Stephen Venables will be giving a talk on the his five expeditions to the Sub Antarctic island of South Georgia, bringing alive the story of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition.
Stephen Venables, mountaineer, writer, broadcaster and public speaker, was the first Briton to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen. He is one of the best known mountaineers of his generation and is also a highly successful photographer.
Stephen Venables’s name is associated above all with Everest. In 1988 he joined a four-man American-Canadian-British team to pioneer a new route up the Kangshung Face – the biggest wall on the world’s highest peak. Never before had such a small team tackled such a daunting objective on Everest, without Sherpa support or oxygen. Seven weeks after first setting foot on the face, Stephen reached the summit, alone. Caught out by darkness, he was then forced to spend the night in the open, without food, drink, or shelter, at 28,000 feet above sea level. Only in the morning could he rejoin his companions (who had not quite reached the summit) to make a desperate retreat down the mountain.
Everest was a thrilling highlight in a career which has taken Stephen right through the Himalaya, from Afghanistan to Tibet, making first ascents of many previously unknown mountains. His adventures have also taken him to the Rockies, the Andes, the Antarctic island South Georgia, East Africa, South Africa and of course the European Alps, where he has climbed and skied for over forty years.
The stories of these travels have enthralled Stephen’s lecture audiences in theatres, schools and university clubs and at corporate conferences all over the world. He has also appeared in television documentaries for BBC, ITV and National Geographic, presented for Radio 4 and appeared in the IMAX movie Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. More recently he had his first experience behind the camera, filming Ranulph Fiennes for ITN News. 2009 saw the release of the first ever IMAX film on the Alps, for which MacGillivray Freeman Films asked Stephen to write the initial treatment and shooting script.
He has written for all the London broadsheet newspapers, covering exploration and adventure, as well as more diverse subjects such as transport, gardening, music and sculpture.
His first book Painted Mountains, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1986, won the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. The authoritative High magazine hailed it as ‘the most promising book by a young writer about the Himalaya for very many years … its lightheartedness is a pleasant change from the inflationary levels of much expedition literature’. Sir Chris Bonington, the world-renowned climber who was later to help save Venables’s life on Panch Chuli, called it ‘an absolute delight’. Subsequent books have won the Grand Prize at the Banff International Mountain Festival and the King Albert Award.
Stephen has an MA in English Language and Literature from Oxford University where his tutors included John Bayley and Christopher Tolkien. In 2008, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University. His own writing is informed by a love of literature and by his other wide interests, particularly music and gardening, which are his great passions when he is at home between expeditions. Above all, as his books and countless public lectures have demonstrated, he knows how to tell a good story.