One down, seven to go: Briton seeks climbing record

Just a few months after recovering from major surgery, a British woman is attempting to conquer the "Seven Summits" - the highest peak on each of the continents - in record time.

Annabelle Bond, 34, reached the summit of Mount Everest two months ago - having set off just four weeks after an operation to remove a benign tumour from her uterus. Now, the former businesswoman has set her sights on the Seven Summits record - one of the most difficult challenges mountaineering has to offer.

Miss Bond will have to take a dangerous gamble on seasonal conditions if she is to scale the remaining six peaks within her target time.

The current women's record, held by French climber Christine Janin, stands at two years and 82 days. Miss Bond plans to halve that by completing the challenge within 12 months.

"I reached the top of Everest on 15 May, and I want to have completed the other summits by that date next year," said Miss Bond, from Kensington, west London. "It's going to be a test of endurance, but I'm confident I can finish it. The main problem is that all the mountains are seasonal, so I'm racing the elements as well as the time."

Miss Bond will begin her attack on Europe's highest peak - Mount Elbrus, in Russia, next month. After that, she will travel to Africa to take on Kilimanjaro, then on to Australasia, Antarctica and South America, before finishing on Mount McKinley in Alaska.

Mountaineers argue over whether Australia's Mount Kosciuszko or Indonesia's Carstensz Pyramid counts as the fourth peak - it depends on where you draw continental boundaries. To avoid dispute, Miss Bond will climb them both.

"It does mean climbing eight major mountains in a year, but I don't want anyone to dispute the record once it has been set," said Miss Bond, who until three years ago was a successful real estate developer in Hong Kong.

The daughter of one of Britain's wealthiest businessmen, HSBC chairman Sir John Bond, Miss Bond has often appeared in gossip columns, being linked to admirers including Prince Andrew and the fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.

She is using her record attempt to raise money for the ovarian cancer charity, the Eve Appeal, and says she is inspired by her grandmother Christine, a mountaineering pioneer during the 1920s.

Mrs Bond, now 96, was one of the first Western women to climb in the Himalayas and was part of a 1929 expedition to Nepal under the legendary British explorer Hugh Rutledge.

The younger Bond, a fan of home comforts who admits she took lip gloss all the way up Everest, is confident she can make her own impact on history.

Annabelle Bond's record attempt can be followed at www.annabellebond.com

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