After returning from the tallest mountain in Antarctica with seven frostbitten fingers Whyalla man Terry Ledgard could be forgiven for ending his quest to climb the ‘seven summits’ – the tallest mountains in the world.
But it seems all this setback will do is slow Terry down, because he plans to visit Mount Everest and Denali next year to complete his sixth and seventh summit respectively.
“Everest is one that I’ve been thinking about and imaging for a long time so I’m excited to get it out of the way,” he said.
Mr Ledgard suffered the frostbite during his descent of Mount Vinson, which he undertook with friend and former SAS Medic Brad Watts, and a group of adventurers.
“Just getting there was an absolute nightmare,” he said.
“You have to wait for a number of weather windows to line up to get from Punta Arenas in Chile, to Antarctica, and then base camp.
“There were weather delays at each camp we went to.”
Once Ledgard and Watts had met up with their climbing team they had a tight 16-hour window to summit the mountain and get back down to High Camp.
Dealing with temperatures around -36 degrees and strong winds, the team set off the conquer Mount Vinson.
Fortunately the windy weather did not persist as they made their way higher up the mountain, allowing the team to reach the summit in calm conditions.
Despite the exciting achievement of making it to the top of the mountain – Mr Ledgard was acutely aware that the job was only ‘half done’.
“A lot of time people get in trouble when they’re descending from the summit,” he said.
Unfortunately Mr Ledgard would run in to trouble of his own thanks to wind chill creating temperatures of -50 degrees during the descent.
“The wind was kicking up a lot of snow so it was hard to navigate the descent,” he said.
Part of the journey required Mr Ledgard to hold on to his ice axe for safety reasons. But with his ice axe acting like a ‘super conductor’, his hands froze within 30 minutes of being in contact with the steel handle.
Windmilling his arms to warm his hands up Mr Ledgard experienced excruciating pain as feeling returned in his fingers.
Luckily he had access to an emergency trauma doctor, a cardiovascular surgeon and some of the best mountaineers in the world at high camp.
But a 12-day wait for air transport from the mountain meant Mr Ledgard’s hands were still exposed to the cold conditions.
The wait also meant he spent his birthday and Christmas inside his sleeping bag stuck on Mount Vinson. After flying out from Antarctica on December 28, Mr Ledgard returned to Whyalla on January 3.
When asked about his inspiration for climbing mountains Mr Ledgard said he and Mr Watts were ‘bored’ after completing their service in the Australian Army.
“We wanted a new challenge, a new adventure,” he said.
Initially the duo were aiming to climb Everest, but expanded their quest to include the ‘seven summits’.
Having completed five of those seven Mr Ledgard is now determined to finish the job.