Savour the thrill of conquering Everest, with no risk of that tiresome frostbite

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The Independent Online

No one will lose any fingers or toes to frostbite, but it will be possible to experience something of the flavour of climbing Everest next year in the British Exhibition of Mountaineering. Visitors will have their senses assailed by the pungent smells of base-camp cooking, howling winds and the rumble of avalanches as they metaphorically ascend the world's highest peak.

No one will lose any fingers or toes to frostbite, but it will be possible to experience something of the flavour of climbing Everest next year in the British Exhibition of Mountaineering. Visitors will have their senses assailed by the pungent smells of base-camp cooking, howling winds and the rumble of avalanches as they metaphorically ascend the world's highest peak.

British mountaineers like to think they started the climbing game: an Englishman, Edward Whymper, led the first ascent of the Matterhorn; Everest was a British show, even though the summit glory went to a New Zealander and a Sherpa; and so was Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak.

But there has never been a national exhibition where the public can marvel at the rudimentary equipment used by the early climbers and get a sense of expedition life. Mountaineers, including Sir Chris Bonington and George Band, a veteran of the first ascents of Everest and Kangchenjunga, are working to fill the gap.

Next June their efforts come to fruition with the opening of an exhibition in a 5,000sq ft hall in the Rheged Discovery Centre outside Penrith, Cumbria. Nearby are the Lake District crags where British rock climbing was born 120 years ago.

The final form of the £600,000 exhibition is still being developed. But with John Sunderland, designer of the ground-breaking Jorvik Viking Centre and the Spirit of London at Madame Tussaud's, engaged on the project it is not going to be a fusty collection of old ropes and alpenstocks. Some 75,000 visitors are predicted in the first year. In groups of up to 10, they will move through a series of "camps", absorbing the story of mountaineering through back-projection and atmospheric effects.

Sir Chris and the Mountain Heritage Trust he chairs are conscious of the danger of creating a climbing Disneyland. "It has to hold the credibility of climbers while giving the public enjoyment and a better understanding of our sport," Sir Chris said.

Andy MacNae, executive officer of the British Mountaineering Council, added: "The story of British mountaineering is one of great national achievement, exploration and sadly some terrible tragedies. Many people wonder why climbers go to the mountains and with the help of this exhibition we hope to go some way to answering that question."

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