A SCOTS climber with no hands or feet has told of the “heartbreaking” moment he was forced to abandon the ascent of one of Europe’s deadliest mountains – just 250 metres from the top.
Jamie Andrew lost his hands and feet in a mountaineering accident 15 years ago which claimed the life of a close friend.
Despite the tragedy, 35-year-old Jamie’s lifelong ambition is to climb the Matterhorn, on the Swiss-Italian border.
The 14,690ft peak (4,477m) was not conquered until 1865 and has claimed the lives of 500 climbers since.
Undaunted, Jamie, from Edinburgh, who climbs with special prosthetic limbs and a support team, set off for the attempt on August 22.
Writing on his website, Jamie said they set off for the summit at 5am. They hoped by midday to reach the Hornli Ridge, which forms the iconic peak of the mountain.
He wrote: “Given that the Hornli Ridge gives over 1300m ascent on continuously difficult and hazardous terrain, I always knew that this would be an enormous undertaking for me.
“And it didn’t disappoint.”
The team were hit by avalanches and temperatures of – 10 degrees C, delaying their progress.
Around midday, as they approached the top, the skies clouded over, threatening a vicious turn in the weather.
Jamie wrote: “Less than 250m climbing led to the summit, but with time against us, a descent more difficult than the ascent, and no bivouac gear, we face an extremely difficult choice.
“Given the conditions, reaching the summit seemed certain.
“But then getting down safely would not be guaranteed, In the end we took the heartbreaking decision to turn back.”
Jamie, who lives in Edinburgh said that the descent itself was “excruciating” work.
He said: “Descending was excruciating, back-breaking, exhausting work, and the Hornli Hut, always in sight, never seemed to get any closer.
“But eventually, at 7.30pm, we stepped from the final wall down onto safe ground. No summit, but what an amazing day.”
Despite the setback, Jamie hinted at another attempt on the Matterhorn.
“The mountain, I assume, will always be there,” he wrote.
Jamie’s life was changed forever in 1999 when he and a friend, Jamie Fisher, went on a climbing expedition in the French Alps.
While descending the north face of Les Driotes, part of the Mont Blanc massif, the pair became trapped in a storm.
After five days on the mountain, rescuers finally reached them.
But by then, Jamie Fisher was already dead and Jamie Andrew was so severely frostbitten doctors had no choice but to amputate both hands and both feet.