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BERLIN (AP) — A British mountaineer who climbed Switzerland's Matterhorn says he is the first quadruple amputee to reach the iconic peak.
The claim couldn't be verified with certainty, but was backed by the warden of the Hoernli Hut base camp, who said he knew of nobody else who'd achieved the feat.
Jamie Andrew lost his hands and feet to frostbite after becoming trapped in a snowstorm while mountaineering in France 17 years ago.
He spent five years training before attempting to reach the 4,478-meter (14,692-feet) Alpine summit last Thursday with two seasoned guides from the International School of Mountaineering.
"In the end, climbing the mountain was the easy bit. It was all the graft and preparation, and trial and error (that was hardest)," Andrew told The Associated Press by phone from Switzerland.
After losing his limbs, Andrew had to learn to walk again and eventually took up skiing and long-distance running before returning to his first passion — mountaineering.
With the help of robust prostheses and specially adapted poles, he was able to ascend much of the way toward the peak. When he needed to climb, Andrew said he used what remains of his arms to hold onto the rope.
The 47-year-old took almost 13 hours to reach the summit and return to the base camp — about five hours longer than most climbers.
Kurt Lauber, a Swiss mountain guide and warden of the Hoernli Hut, confirmed the ascent.
"I don't know of any other such case," he said.
Lauber applauded the achievement, but cautioned against underestimating the Matterhorn, noting that Andrew's team only reached the camp at 7 p.m., narrowly missing a bout of bad weather in which two other Britons climbing on the Italian side of the mountain were killed.
"It would be wrong for people who aren't disabled to now get the impression it's easy," he said.
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