“I'm 63 years old. I'm terrified of heights. I've had a double heart bypass.” So said Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
He could have added that he is missing the tips of his fingers on his left hand after he sawed them off in his garden shed because they’d been damaged by frostbite. Yet despite all of these apparent obstacles, the British explorer today stood atop the Eiger, having climbed the terrifying North Face.
Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet OBE took five days to conquer the Nordwand of the Swiss Ogre, and in the process is on the way to raising £1.5m for cancer support charity Marie Curie. He suffers from vertigo and only started climbing two years ago. The 1,800m (5,900ft) North Face has claimed the lives of more than 50 mountaineers but at 10.30am today, Sir Ran and his team leader Kenton Cool and photographer Ian Parnell summited the 3,970m (13,025ft) peak.
The climb has been coverd by ITV News.
In his MySpace blog, the explorer says: “I think I will have nightmares for a long time over the Traverse for the Gods. My policy of not looking down just wasn't possible. There was nowhere but down. I had to look down to find the next foothold because it is so totally vertical.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult climb. But I thought it would be more like the practice climbs I have been doing with Kenton around Chamonix and the Alps – just a more difficult version of that. Not the nightmarish thing that it actually was.
“So, much as I am very pleased that we succeeded in getting to the top, and I am really hoping for big money for our charity, to be honest it is more than I would have wanted to have taken on."
Ian Parnell said the team had a bad night on Friday, sheltering on a ridge 300m below the summit: “We had an awful night. There was no mobile reception so we couldn't communicate with anybody or do our live broadcast. Then I dropped the ITN camera over the edge – but we were so knackered and it was so cold.”
After reaching the summit, the team was airlifted off by helicopter. Sir Ranulph said: “I'm heading back to the hotel for a bath. If I smell half as bad as the other two…”
The explorer, a distant cousin of the royal family, was the first man to reach the North and South Poles by land and served with the SAS. He decided to raise money for the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme, which helps terminal patients be cared for in their own homes, after his wife, sister and mother all died of cancer within 18 months.