Climbing for Charity

Paul Flint and Stephen Court

An inspirational illustrated talk by a mountaineer who is raising money for two local charities, St Michael’s Hospice and Marwell Widlife was given to the Probus Club by local man Stephen Court.

Although only twenty seven years old and a serving police officer based in Basingstoke he has been on a mission for several years with £40,000 as his target. He has so far raised over £7,000.

In January this year he went to the south of Argentina to tackle Mount Aconcagua, which at 6,961 metres or 22,837 feet is the world’s second highest mountain. Even in the height of the southern hemisphere’s summer the temperature on the mountain ranged from 30 degrees during the day to minus 10 degrees at night.

This expedition was the culmination of several years’ training by ascending Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco; from the peak it was possible to see the Sahara desert to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and Machu Picchu in Peru. Last October his attempt to ascend Mera Peak in Nepal had to be abandoned due to illness, so it was easy to understand that his efforts have a distinct element of danger.

Altitude sickness can be a common problem along with heart attacks and falls on high mountains and an average of three people die each year on Mount Aconcagua. Despite these dangers the mountain attracts considerable numbers of climbers during the summer season and the rangers, who strictly control matters, have organised permanent camps at different altitudes.

Approximately only 40% of the climbers reach the summit. The rest are thwarted by accidents, illness and weather problems. In fact just as he was about to attempt the final ascent the rangers closed the mountain due to approaching bad weather from the Pacific Ocean. Disappointed, Stephen started the descent when he badly damaged his knee. As a consequence he had to be airlifted off the mountain by helicopter operating close to their maximum height due to the thin air.