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No mountain high enough for Royal Holloway women

Posted on 19/03/2010

Picture by Tom Shore: World Record holders Bonita Norris and Tori James

Royal Holloway, University of London alumna Tori James, set a new world record in 2007 when at 25-year’s old she became the youngest British woman to climb Everest. Now following in her footsteps, quite literally, is another College graduate who hopes to beat that record by reaching the summit at the age of 22.

Bonita Norris, who graduated in 2009 with a Media Arts degree, has been preparing for the epic journey for the last 18 months, and will begin the climb on April 3.

For Tori, who studied Geography at Royal Holloway, her record was two-fold as not only did she become the UK’s youngest British woman to conquer Everest but she became Wales’s first. And despite the threat of losing one of her records, Tori is keen to help any challengers: “I′m always willing to offer advice to anyone wanting to climb Everest – it′s a huge undertaking and there were so many people that helped me in the run up to my climb and I want to do the same for Bonita.

“It is great that two Royal Holloway women might reach the highest point on earth. I'll be following Bonita′s progress whilst she is in Nepal, and if she takes the ‘youngest British female’ title, that′s okay with me.”

For Bonita the challenge is all about pushing herself to the extreme both physically and mentally. She is grateful to get first-hand advice from someone who knows just how tough it will be. “Tori’s story greatly inspired me and really made me believe that I too could take on such a huge challenge,” she says. “She′s my hero and has given me so many words of wisdom.”

Bonita was tasked with raising a total of £40,000 sponsorship to secure her spot on the Everest Expedition and she secured money through funding from Royal Holloway’s Annual Fund and from a company called Mobile Phone Top Up at ATM, which allows people to use their debit cards to buy credit for their mobile phones at ATMs.

Bonita also aims to raise a further £50,000 for her chosen charity, Global Angels, which helps children in some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the world. Two of the projects that will benefit from her efforts are White Lodge disability centre in Chertsey, and the Child Voice International Village in Northern Uganda.

In 2009, Bonita became the youngest person ever to climb Nepal’s Mount Manaslu – the world′s eighth highest mountain at 8,156 metres, but understandably she is still anxious about the 8,850 metre peak of Everest. She says, “As far as I’m concerned, my life will be in the balance until the moment I’m back in Kathmandu. There is an overwhelming sense of your own mortality, but it is something you have to control because losing your nerve could easily be a death sentence.”

But there are plenty of things she is looking forward to, not least fulfilling a dream. “Obviously I′m looking forward to hopefully reaching the summit. But more than that - the bonding with your team is priceless, and those moments when you stop for a rest and you realise just how beautiful the view is. I love the mental and physical challenge of climbing, though eventually I know the enjoyment fades when exhaustion sets in. I can’t wait to be able to push myself beyond anything I thought I was capable of. “

* People can support Bonita by topping up their mobile phone at a cash machine during March and April and Top Up at ATM will donate a few pence from every transaction to Global Angels.

There is also an opportunity to bid for a personalised flag to be taken up Everest which could include a corporate message for your company, or a personal message to your family or loved one. For more details visit www.bonitanorris.com


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