Saying goodbye on the mountain

THE contrast could not have been more marked – On Saturday Richard Lamb descended Ben Nevis smiling and surrounded by friends and family.

But three years ago he made the trip down the United Kingdom's tallest mountain unconscious and on a stretcher. His friend Neil Stoodley came down in a body bag.

So the 33-year-old who was born in Morley decided to lay the past to rest and say goodbye to his friend by returning to the mountain that nearly killed him.

His decision was made all the harder because he did it with less than a full complement of fingers and with a prosthetic leg which, though good, nearly fell off at one point.

Despite his modesty and tendency to shrug praise off, his feat on Saturday is one that deserves the utmost respect.

As his mother Pat Lamb said in a recent phone call from Manchester: "I didn't want him to do it but could not stop him, he is 33, years old. I was very nervous on Saturday but I feel very very proud and very honoured he's my son."

She went on to urge the people of Morley to sponsor Richard who also did the climb to raise money for the Limbless Association and the English Federation for Disability Sport.

Three teams, made up of friends, including Andy Pagett who had been with them in 2001 and members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team who saved his life, joined him for the climb on Saturday.

Richard (pictured) said: "As we reached the hut where we would have a break, I just felt peace, there was a growing sense of ease through the day.

"Before we pressed on I had a little ceremony, said a few words to say goodbye to Neil, and to say we were doing this for ourselves, for his parents and to raise money but first and foremost, to close the door on the past and open a new one."

He added: "The first pitch of the climb was glorious because I had all these thoughts of self doubt going up the gully and then as soon as my hands touched the rock it was OK."

As they climbed higher and approached Tower Ridge, the scene of the accident, he searched his memory for any memories but, perhaps thankfully, he could recall nothing of the accident itself.

"Climbing down into the gully I looked over the edge and I have to say I was terrified for about a minute but I managed to pull myself together and push myself into the gap and I forced myself to look down where we had fallen, down 800 ft.

"I wanted to see if I had a memory of the fall but there was nothing."

The final bit of the climb in contrast was easy and the group made it up in a creditable five and a half hours.

At the top of Ben Nevis the three teams and another group of friends who had taken another route celebrated with whisky, sugary tea, pies and cigars.

"We sat down in company with friends relaxed and for the first time in three and a half years I felt at peace, we said our goodbyes to Neil and to another friend who died in the Rocky Mountains," he said.

Although Richard is not in a hurry to climb Ben Nevis again he will continue with the hobby he loves thanks to Pace Rehabilitation, who built his leg, and Cotswold Outdoor who provided his equipment.

"Initially when I first started this I thought this was going to be my last climb but I got back into it. It is not a case of once bitten twice shy," he said.

When Richard woke up to find his hands white and dead and the lower part of his right leg removed he was grateful to be alive.

He explained: "The Lochaber rescue team has not pulled anyone off the mountain so injured and suffering hypothermia and survived. Some of them have been in that game for 20 or 30 years and they said they had seen nothing like it."

He was determined to walk again and has since undergone operations to reconstruct what is left of his hands.

Forced to abandon his postgraduate studies following the accident, he turned instead to computing and has just finished a degree which he hopes will stand him in good stead when it comes to finding work.

He asked that people sponsor him for his climb and to help other amputees through the Limbless Association.

If anyone is touched by his story and is prepared to donate to help others like him please contact him through his website at www.dickymintos.plus.com or by phoning him at him home in Manchester on (0161) 236 3736.