Mountaineer climbs Matterhorn after quadruple amputation

Jamie Andrew says you have to take risks in life

Mountaineer climbs Matterhorn after quadruple amputation

Jamie Andrew | Image: YouTube/Jamie Andrew

In the winter of 1999, Jamie Andrew was rescued from a mountain in the French Alps with severe frostbite.

He then fell into a coma and the doctors performed a quadruple amputation - meaning he had no hands and feet.

But that did not stop the British mountaineer, who went on to climb the Matterhorn last year - whose summit is 4,478 metres.

Andrew told the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk there is risk associated with everything.

"You always have to take risks in life, I believe, in order to push yourself, to be yourself, to expand your horizons.

"And unfortunately that does mean that sometimes things do go wrong."

On his 1999 climb, Andrew said: "We were unexpectedly caught out by a vicious and unforecast storm.

"We were approaching the very summit of the mountain, which in effect put us at our very most vulnerable spot at the furthest point away from safety."

The Matterhorn mountain peak pictured in snow from the Swiss side | Image: RollingNews.ie

Andrew says they dug themselves in right on the crest of the mountain to wait out the storm.

"What we weren't expecting was for this storm to last as long as it did - Jamie and I ended up being trapped on that mountain summit for a total of five days and five nights."

But Andrew's climbing partner, Jamie Fisher, did not survive.

"Sadly on the fifth night we both succumbed to hypothermia, which in the mountains is a lethal killer, (but) it was Jamie Fisher for whatever reason faded faster than me".

Andrew says it was then he thought he was going to live much longer: "I think I had a strong acceptance that this was the end, that there was no way I was getting off this mountain alive".

But it was then that he heard a helicopter "but it wasn't the end of the storm", he says.

"There was a clearing, but the winds were still so powerful that the helicopter could barely fly at all."

"Despite the fact that I was dangling 1,000 meters above a glacier in space, I remember looking back and seeing the ledge with Jamie and the rescuers still there - realising that while I'd made it, I was going to live, but I also had this very strong sense that of course this wasn't a happy ending and I was returning to a very different world".

Andrew says he knew there was going to be permanent damage to him, discovering after a week that he would need amputations.

He now has prosthetic limbs - saying: "It's always a learning process that goes on - but certainly the first year was the big learning curve.

"That was the year when was really putting my whole life back together again - learning to do everything in my life all over again from scratch".

"It's all about making the most of what you have - and I've always been a great advocate of rather than allowing myself to feel sorry for myself, to feel happy for what I do have".

Why the Matterhorn?

"It's the most iconic mountain in Switzerland and the world even, and it's on every box of chocolates - everyone knows the Matterhorn.

"At first I didn't even dare to believe it might be possible, but it's amazing how a little thought like that can lodge itself in your brain.

"If you allow it to take hold, it can become a dream - and once you've got that dream it's the same as anything else, you just have to work towards it one step at a time".

"After years if trying and several failed attempts, on this actual occasion - on August of last year - it just went like a dream.

"The one big thought in my mind at this stage is of course 'well we're only half way there' - the most important stage of the journey is getting down."

And Andrew says he is taking a break from climbing mountains: "My main challenge in life, if you want to put it that way, is my family, my kids".