A KINTORE man has returned home after successfully completing a gruelling climb in the Andes.
Neil McDonald undertook the ascent of Aconcagua, which stands at 22,841 feet, in preparation for the ultimate aim of conquering Everest in the spring in the name of charity.
He described the experience as “much tougher than I had expected” but said he was now better prepared for his assault on the world’s tallest mountain.
Businessman Neil and wife, Linzie, are raising money for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in the hope of finding a cure for the condition which affects their nine-year-old daughter, Darcey.
Last year the couple held a Bond-themed ball which raised £82,000 for the charity, but have since totalled £107,000 through donations and corporate packages.
To prepare for Aconcagua and the subsequent quest to tackle Everest, Neil had practiced what he described as his “Big Ten challenge” on a weekly basis. It consisted of ascending and descending Bennachie ten times in a single go with a 10kg day pack.
He said of his Andean challenge: “It was much tougher than I thought it would be. The conditions were horrendous.
“We managed to reach the peak on our second attempt. We had three attempts planned but for the second one the weather was so bad we could not leave the camp.”
Neil said they had been climbing with a Swiss expedition and the party had experienced 80kpm winds at more than 6,000 metres.
He explained: “I did struggle with the altitute and lost weight during the trip. But I feel I can now prepare myself better for the Everest attempt. I am delighted to have succeeded on Aconcagua but Everest will be an even bigger challenge but Im looking forward to it.”
Linzie said it had been difficult to keep in touch with her husband because of the problems with reception on the mountain.
She added: “He would get in contact for about 30 seconds and then it was gone. It was very sporadic.
“However we were able to monitor their progress through a link on Facebook to a tracker.
“It is great to have him home safe and sound.”
To find out more information about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the research being done, visit www.JDRF.org