Stephen Venables

Stephen Venables

Stephen Venables (born 1954) is a British mountaineer and writer, currently president of the South Georgia Association and a past President of the Alpine Club.


In 1988, Venables became the first Briton to ascend the summit of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. His ascent, as far as the South Col, was by a new route up the Kangshung Face from Tibet, with just three other climbers, Americans Robert Anderson and Ed Webster, and Canadian Paul Teare. All four reached the South Col but Teare decided to descend from here, concerned about incipient altitude sickness. The other three continued up the final section of the normal 1953 route, but Anderson and Webster were forced to turn back at the South Summit. Meanwhile Venables reached the summit alone, at 3.40 pm. Descending late in the day, he decided to bivouac in the open at about 8,600 metres, rather than risk a fall by continuing in the dark. Anderson and Webster spent the night slightly lower in an abandoned Japanese tent. In the morning all three were reunited and continued down to their own tents on the South Col. It took them a further three days to complete an epic retreat down the Kangshung Face. All three climbers suffered some frostbite, with Webster affected worst.

Venables's other Himalayan first ascents include new routes in the Hindu Kush (1977), Kishtwar Shivling (1983), Solu Tower (1987), the south-west ridge of Kusum Kanguru (1991) and Panch Chuli V (1992). During the descent from Panch Chuli V Venables broke both his legs in a fall, when an abseil anchor failed; thanks to his Indian and British team mates and the Indian Air Force, he was rescued. This expedition was recorded in his book "A Slender Thread" and in Victor Saunders's "No Place to Fall". He has also made first ascents in Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia and South Georgia. He has appeared in several BBC television documentaries and the IMAX film "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure". He is currently president of the South Georgia Association and is a past President of the Alpine Club.

Venables is also the father of the only known child in the UK to suffer from both autism and leukaemia. His son, Ollie (born June 1991), was diagnosed with autism aged two and leukaemia aged four. After several cancer-free years, he developed a brain tumour and died, aged twelve years old. His life was the subject of Venables's tenth book "Ollie", published in 2006.


The award for "Best Book — Mountain Literature" at the 2007 Banff Mountain Book Festival went to Venables for his "Higher Than the Eagle Soars: A Path to Everest". [ [ Awards] at]

Further reading

*Venables, Stephen, "Painted Mountains: Two Expeditions to Kashmir", Mountaineers Press, 1987, (ISBN 0898861365)
*Venables, Stephen, "Everest, Kangshung Face", Pan, 1991, (ISBN 0330315595)
*Venables, Stephen, "Island at the Edge of the World: South Georgian Odyssey", Hodder and Stoughton, 1991, (ISBN 0340556005)
*Venables, Stephen, "Everest - Alone at the Summit", Odyssey, 1996, (ISBN 0952937506)
*Venables, Stephen and Fanshaw, Andy, "Himalaya Alpine Style: The Most Challenging Routes on the Highest Peaks", Baton Wicks, 1999, (ISBN 1898573395)
*Venables, Stephen, "A Slender Thread: Escaping Disaster in the Himalaya", Arrow, 2001, (ISBN 0099279061)
*Venables, Stephen, "To the Top: The Story of Everest", Walker, 2004, (ISBN 1844287254)
*Venables, Stephen, "Ollie: The True Story of a Brief and Courageous Life", Hutchinson, 2006, (ISBN 009947879X)
*Venables, Stephen, "Voices from the Mountains", Reader's Digest, 2006, (ISBN 076210810X)
*Venables, Stephen and Bonington, Chris, "Meetings with Mountains: Remarkable Face-to-face Encounters with the World's Peaks", Cassell, 2006, (ISBN 1844034496)
*Venables, Stephen, "Higher Than the Eagle Soars: A Path to Everest", Random House, 2007, (ISBN 0091795613)


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