Adventurer is on cloud nine
ONE DOWN, SIX TO GO: North Queensland adventurer Luke Richmond on the slopes of Argentina’s Aconcagua, the first of his seven mountainous challenges I NTREPID North Queensland mountaineer Luke Richmond received the reality check of his life after passing frozen bodies in the u n f o r g i v i n g c o l d o f S o u t h America’s highest mountain.
Richmond, 27, a former Ingham State High School student and Townsville soldier, is undertaking a quest to climb the world’s seven summits for charity and he recently conquered his first climb by way of Argentina’s 6962m-high peak Aconcagua.
But the journey to the summit t urned i nto a genuine battle against mother nature as Richmond huddled in a tent with other climbers for three days on the side of the mountain. The region’s worst storm in 10 years had slammed into Aconcagua.
‘‘ We had to knuckle down for about three days in a tent, and several other people ( from another expedition) died high up on the mountain because of that storm. It was a pretty bad storm,’’ Richmond said. ‘‘ It was lucky our team was only about an hour out from camp when we hit the worst of the storm, so we made it back safe, but the three other teams that were higher up weren’t so lucky.
‘‘ It took us about 18 days in the end to climb after a three-day hike in, and then we had the worst storm in 10 years hit us from going from camp one to camp two.’’
In an interview with the Bulletin before the Aconcagua ascent, Richmond said: ‘ ‘ Aconcagua’s known to have some really big winds that come out of nowhere, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on that.’’
After surviving the wild storm, Richmond and his 11-person team pressed on.
‘‘ The weather came good for us and it was about a 13-hour push to summit from camp three, but it was a bit of reality check for me because the climbers that actually died up there were actually still there on the trail . . . you can’t bring them down when they’re that high,’’ he said.
‘‘ Walking past a couple of dead climbers on the way to the summit, it shocked everyone.
‘‘ That’s the dark side of mountaineering and you definitely get nervous about it, but I was confident that our local guide would get us back safely.’’
About 7000 climbers try to reach the Andean mountain’s summit each year, with four people having perished on Aconcagua’s slopes this climbing season. The dead include Australian Robert Arden Huggins, 64, who succumbed to altitude sickness in mid-February.
His body was recovered from the mountain.
Richmond has arrived back in Australia and is currently recovering from his climb, but is already training for his next climb in the suburban comfort of Sydney.
‘‘ It ( Aconcagua) tested me mentally, physically and I’m just glad I came out without injury and feeling very strong for the next one,’’ he said.
‘‘ I’m just smashing it down here, I’ve found a really good gym and I’ve teed up with a couple of boot camps who are allowing me to train for free,’’ he said.
Richmond will fly to Alaska in about seven weeks to climb North America’s highest mountain, Mt McKinley, in the next stop of his seven-summits campaign.
Following the Alaskan adventure will be climbs to the top of Mt Elbrus ( 5633m) in Russia, Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro ( 5896m), Carstensz Pyramid ( 4884m) in Western Papua, Vinson Massif ( 4897m) in Antarctica, and then finally Mt Everest ( 8850m) in Nepal.
To keep up with the latest from Richmond’s adventures, or to make sponsorship inquiries, visit www. olocadventures. com. au.