Climber follows grandmother's footsteps up the Himalayas

Her grandmother was a pioneer of the mountains, one of the first Western women to climb in the Himalayas. Now, 75 years and two generations on, Annabelle Bond is set to follow in her footsteps - and beyond.

Ms Bond, 34, is attempting one of the toughest and most dangerous challenges in mountaineering - the Seven Summits. The feat, to conquer the highest peak on each of the seven continents, is notorious in climbing circles and has only ever been achieved by a small group of the world's finest explorers.

Tomorrow, Ms Bond - who has already scaled Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere - will fly to Kathmandu to begin her assault on the world's highest mountain, Everest.

It is a journey that will take her to within a few miles of where her grandmother, Christine, first climbed in 1929. Part of an expedition led by the legendary British mountaineer Hugh Rutledge, Christine Bond was only 21 when she sailed for the Himalayas in December 1928. Over the following year, she explored the previously unmapped upper reaches of Nepal with Rutledge's team, climbing to villages where white women had never been seen before.

Inspired by her grandmother's tales, Ms Bond is determined to succeed where Rutledge failed, by conquering Everest.

"It's terrifying. I've been waking up in cold sweats, but I'm determined to give it a go," said Ms Bond, who will carry with her a Tibetan good luck charm brought back to England by her grandmother in 1929. "Believe it or not, I can get scared of heights, but I am confronting all my fears: it's about mind over matter."

It is a startling adventure for a young woman who, until three years ago, was a successful real estate developer in Hong Kong. The eldest daughter of one of Britain's highest-paid businessmen, she has made regular appearances in gossip columns, linked to potential suitors including Prince Andrew and American designer Tommy Hilfiger.

At the moment, however, there is only one thing on her mind: the next summit. She plans to complete all seven - which include Kilimanjaro, the Alaskan giant Mount McKinley and Europe's highest point, Elbrus in Russia - by this time next year, raising £250,000 for the Eve Appeal, an ovarian cancer research charity, along the way.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I want to seize it," said Ms Bond. "My family are 100 per cent behind me, but I think my dad's secretly envious, because he doesn't have the time to do it himself."

Ms Bond, who is sponsored by adventure sports brands Arcteryx and Salomon, will be kitted out with state-of-the-art clothing and satellite navigation equipment for her challenge. It's a far cry from the days of her grandmother, who remembers the biting conditions of the Himalayas all too well.

"When I arrived, I didn't have the right clothes at all", said Mrs Bond, now 96 and living near Hastings, East Sussex. "It was the beginning of climbing, of course. We had to be given goggles and fitted trousers made from some kind of tough material. It took quite a long time to acclimatise."

But the cold wasn't the only danger facing Himalayan explorers in the 1920s, she continued. "One night there was a snow leopard prowling around the tents, and the sherpas had to kill it with sticks. They gave it to me afterwards because they thought it was very brave for an English girl to be up there."

Christine Bond believes her granddaughter picked up the climbing bug from her.

"I think Annabelle got the infection from me", she said. "We can't resist things like this. Annabelle is full of adventure, but she is going to a very dangerous place. It is very frightening up there, and I will be following her progress as closely as possible."

Annabelle's progress on Everest and her subsequent attempt to complete the seven summits can be followed at www.annabellebond.com

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