We’re peak­ing in sev­enth heaven

Newly-wed cou­ple pre­pare for cli­mac­tic climb af­ter scal­ing the world’s high­est moun­tains

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Rus­sell Black­stock RBLACKSTOCK@SUN­DAY­POST.COM

An in­trepid en­gi­neer is on the edge of ful­fill­ing his dream of con­quer­ing the world’ s tough­est moun­taineer­ing chal­lenge.

Peter Sun­nucks, 35, will be joined by his wife El­iz­a­beth Wood when he heads to Antarc­tica in two weeks’ time to try to scale the last of seven of the earth’s high­est peaks.

He de­cided to take on the gr uelling Seven Sum­mits Chal­lenge – climb­ing the seven high­est sum­mits on seven con­ti­nents – af­ter scal­ing Mount Ever­est in 2010.

A few months pre­vi­ous to Ever­est, Peter had topped the 22,838 foot-high Aconcagua in Ar­gentina, then af­ter Ever­est he con­quered the mighty De­nali in Alaska in 2013.

El­iz­a­beth, 31, has joined him on his last three climbs – Tan­za­nia’s Mount Kil­i­man­jaro in 2014 then Carstensz Pyra­mid in New Guinea and Mt El­brus in Rus­sia.

The cou­ple was in­spired to take on the chal­lenge af­ter the loss of a par­ent and a friend.

Peter, from Ed­in­burgh, came up with the idea af­ter his friend John Thorn­ton was killed in Afghanistan in 2008, aged just 22. Peter and an­other friend, Capt Matt Snook, made it to the top of Ever­est in 2010 in his hon­our.

El­iz­a­beth is climb­ing in mem­ory of her mother Kirsty who died 10 years ago, in her 50s, from early on­set Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Peter said: “This is go­ing to test us to the lim­its.

“But it will be worth it in the mem­ory of El­iz­a­beth’s mum and for John, and hope­fully we will raise some money for a cou­ple of good causes too.”

The cou­ple will be joined by climber Joel Jo­hans­son when they at­tempt their sev­enth and fi­nal peak – the daunt­ing Vin­son Mas­sif in Antarc­tica.

“Down there, we could be fac­ing highs of mi­nus 10 de­grees and lows of mi­nus 60, de­pend­ing on wind shifts,” Peter told The Sun­day Post.

The moun­taineer reck­oned tak­ing on I n d o n e s i a’s

Carstensz Pyra­mid has been their tough­est test so far. At a tow­er­ing 16,024ft, it is the tallest moun­tain in Aus­trala­sia.

They and their party trekked through steamy jun­gle con­di­tions for six days to reach base camp.

“It was ex­cit­ing be­cause we came across no­madic tribes who don’t get many western vis­i­tors at all,” he said.

The cou­ple had considered post­pon­ing their wed­ding un­til the Seven Sum­mits chal­lenge was over but tied the knot ear­lier this year.

The cou­ple have been tack­ling the Seven Sum­mits chal­lenge dur­ing hol­i­day leave from their busy jobs.

“It has been a great test of our re­la­tion­ship,” Peter said. “But our sec­ond date was to a climb­ing wall and we share a com­mon in­ter­est of ex­plo­ration and travel.

“When you are on climbs like the ones we have been do­ing and stay­ing in tents and moun­tain huts in the mid­dle of nowhere, you get to know each other par­tic­u­larly well.”

Hav­ing to pass the grim sight of aban­doned, frozen bod­ies of dead climbers at Ever­est’s “death zone” above 25,000 feet did not put him off do­ing the rest of the Seven Sum­mits chal­lenge.

The rea­son for the “death zone” name is be­cause noth­ing lives at that al­ti­tude or above and no hu­man can sur­vive long there due to the lack of oxy­gen in the thin air.

“I have wit­nessed some tragic events on dif­fer­ent moun­tains such as fa­tal avalanches,” he said. “It is mo­ments like that which make you ap­pre­ci­ate life.

“I was de­ter­mined to make it to the top of Ever­est for John. He was a re­mark­able man who crammed a lot into his 22 years. It was al­ways his am­bi­tion to climb the world’s high­est moun­tain, so Matt and I did it for him.”

To pre­pare for the ex­pe­di­tion the cou­ple has been train­ing in Scot­land and Swe­den.

“Be­cause it will be so cold, phys­i­cal fit­ness is very im­por­tant,” he said. “We have been climb­ing a lot of Mun­ros with heavy back packs on and in Swe­den we were pulling sledges and dig­ging snow holes and sleep­ing in there.”

Do­nate at http :// uk. vir­gin money giv­ing. com/ team/ ven­ture antarc­tica

Mt Ever­est - May 2010 Sum­mit photo with Capt Matt Snook RM and JTYAF ban­ner

Aconcagua - Jan­uary 2010 Sum­mit photo with Capt Matt Snook RM, Help for Heroes flag

De­nali - June 2013 Sum­mit photo with UK flag

Mt El­brus -

June 2015

Liz and Peter on the sum­mit

Carstensz Pyra­mid -

De­cem­ber 2014 Liz and Peter on the sum­mit at Christ­mas

Kil­i­man­jaro - April 2014 Sum­mit photo in front of the con­grat­u­la­tions sign

Vin­son Mas­sif

The pair are all set to climb the Antarc­tic peak

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