Ad­ven­turer is on cloud nine

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Michael Thompson michael. thompson@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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.

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