Disabled climber summits iconic peak

Quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew and a mountain guide in jubilant mood on top of the Matterhorn last Thursday.
Quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew and a mountain guide in jubilant mood on top of the Matterhorn last Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GENEVA • A disabled Scottish mountaineer has been celebrating after reaching the iconic peak of the mighty Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, saying: "You really can achieve anything."

The distinctive pyramidal Matterhorn, which lies on the border with Italy, is considered a national symbol in Switzerland.

Accompanied by two mountain guides, Mr Jamie Andrew climbed to the top in about six hours last Thursday, and then took a further 61/2 hours to descend - reportedly five hours more than the average climbing time.

"It's fantastic," he said on Tuesday, insisting "it's not about breaking records. It is just about proving that you can achieve great things, by making the most of what you have and by believing in yourself and taking it one step at a time".

Mr Andrew, who made the climb a day after his 47th birthday, had his legs below the knees and his arms below the elbows amputated after a climbing accident in the French Alps 17 years ago. His climbing partner Jamie Fisher died in the accident.

Even shortly after the accident, Mr Andrew said, he dreamed he would climb again.

"But I never dreamt I could climb the Matterhorn. My first goal was to go hiking in my local hills in Scotland," he said. The father of three climbed the 5,895m Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2004, and since then quite a few mountains in the Alps.

He had been training for five years to reach the 4,478m alpine summit, and almost made it in 2014 before having to give up just 250m from the summit.

"It's a relief that this has finally come to fruition," he said, acknowledging that the "Matterhorn is definitely the hardest thing I did".

Mr Andrew said he hoped his feat could serve as an inspiration to others, but rejected suggestions it could prompt some to put themselves at risk. "Mountaineering is a dangerous activity and everyone who goes into the mountains should know what he is doing," he said, insisting "that applies to everybody, whether they are an able-bodied mountaineer or disabled".

"I hope this shows you can achieve far more than you dreamt, but that does not necessarily mean pushing yourself into the face of danger, just pushing yourself mentally, physically and emotionally," he said.

Asked about his next adventure, he said: "I want to take a break before thinking about it, but there will definitely be further challenges."

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Disabled climber summits iconic peak'. Print Edition | Subscribe