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Climber defies the elements for troops; Businessman raises pounds 12,300 scaling peak.

Byline: Dave Black

A DETERMINED mountaineer has delivered a pounds 12,300 boost to a forces' charity after completing the challenge of a lifetime by scaling the world's highest peak outside the Himalayas.

Intrepid businessman Tony Hodson, 51, returned to his North East home at the weekend after spending a gruelling 16 days on a triumphant ascent to the summit of 6,962-metre high Aconcagua in Argentina's Andes mountain range.

It involved a three-day trek in sweltering, desert-like conditions to reach base camp, risking altitude sickness while lugging heavy packs up the mountain and surviving a last-minute weather scare which resulted in half of his group failing to complete the push to the summit.

Tony, who lives in Darras Hall, Northumberland, developed his passion for mountaineering in the 1990s. He has raised more than pounds 12,300 for Help For Heroes, almost double his target of pounds 1 for each metre of Aconcagua's height.

He was part of a group of 19 climbers from the UK and Netherlands who arrived in Mendoza, Argentina in early January to prepare for their assault on Aconcagua, which is 500 metres higher than his previous highest climb, Mount Illimani in Bolivia.

They split into two groups after reaching base camp at 4,200 metres above sea level, before setting off to carry their 40lb packs of tents, equipment and provisions to two further camps, the second 1,100 metres from the summit.

Because he was feeling so fit and climbing so strongly, Tony was asked to go in the first group of eight, who successfully reached the summit.

The second group, who set off 24 hours later, hit a massive electrical storm and heavy snowfall which forced them to give up only 100 metres from the top.

Yesterday Tony said: "Fitness-wise, I had prepared for this for six months and that is probably why I made it all the way. I feel very privileged, satisfied and delighted to have done it. When you stand there and look at Aconcagua, it is one hell of a mountain and you can see why the failure rate is so high.

"Fitness was not an issue with me and it becomes a bit of a mind game. It is as much about your determination to get to that summit. I was feeling fit and strong and knew there would never be a better chance to make it.

"Doing the climb for Help For Heroes, which is a fantastic charity, definitely gave me a bit of extra incentive to grind out those last few steps."

Tony, who runs his own people development consultancy and is married with three children, has climbed throughout the world, and numbers Mount Kilimanjaro among his conquests.

He was inspired to raise funds for Help For Heroes by Major Phil Packer, the former Army officer who completed the London Marathon on crutches after being injured in a rocket attack in Iraq which left him without the use of his legs.

"I thought the original fundraising target of pounds 6,962 was a stretch, so to potentially almost double that is testament to the generosity of people and the huge amount of interest in this charity," he added.

CAPTION(S):

TOP OF THE WORLD Tony Hodson at the summit of the Aconcagua with a picture of his family. Inset, at the famous snow formation, the Penitentes
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2010
Words:560
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