UK climber survives 300m fall

2011-02-01 12:00
Adam Potter, aged 36, who fell more than 300m from the summit of one of Britain's highest mountains, smiles while recovering at hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.(Danny Lawson-pa, AP)

Adam Potter, aged 36, who fell more than 300m from the summit of one of Britain's highest mountains, smiles while recovering at hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.(Danny Lawson-pa, AP)

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London - A climber who plunged 300m from one of Britain's highest mountains - and walked away - is promising to climb Mount Everest later this year.

Adam Potter, of Glasgow, went home on Monday, just days after he slipped on an icy patch off the summit of the 1 093m Sgurr Choinnich Mor in Scotland.

The 35-year-old tumbled down the steep slopes on Saturday, flying off cliffs. Rescuers found tattered bits of his clothing and equipment on outcrops stretching from the top to the bottom of the mountain.

Astonished rescuers found Potter standing up reading a map when they arrived. Convinced he was not the victim, they flew to the summit where Potter's fellow hikers were waiting.

"But my mates pointed downhill ... and that's when they realised I was the actual casualty, even though I was up and moving around," he said.

Though he had broken his back in three places, Potter is still able to walk and was discharged from a Glasgow hospital on Monday.

Royal navy Lieutenant Tim Barker, who was on the search and rescue helicopter, said the crew was convinced at first that Potter was not the victim.

Knocked unconscious

"We honestly thought it couldn't have been him, as he was on his feet, reading a map. Above him was a series of three high craggy outcrops," Barker said. "It seemed impossible. So we retraced our path back up the mountain and, sure enough, there were bits of his kit in a vertical line all the way up where he had obviously lost them during the fall. It was quite incredible."

Potter had been climbing in the Scottish Highlands with his three friends and his dog in preparation for an Everest trek later this year. He had just reached the summit, when he lost his footing and fell down the extremely steep and craggy eastern slope of the mountain.

"I tried to slow myself down using my pole, but when I went over the last cliff, I thought I was done for. I felt I wouldn't make it out of this alive," he said.

Potter thinks he was knocked unconscious when he landed, but woke up and started collecting his scattered equipment. He said he was trying to orient himself with his map when the search and rescue helicopter arrived.

His survival was "purely a matter of luck", said David Gibson of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

"I don't know how he managed to survive, because there has been a case where somebody had fallen just 30 feet (9m) in that area and died," Gibson said.

Determined to scale Everest

It's unlikely the snow broke his fall, said mountain safety adviser Heather Morning.

"The snow levels were quite high and they've been around for a couple of weeks and hardened around the craggy outcrops," Morning said. "There were several incidents last winter when people fell really long distances, but their falls had been cushioned by the soft snow.

"With him (Potter), there really is no rhyme or reason (for his survival) with the conditions being what they were."

Not that the accident has made Potter scared of heights.

He is determined to stick to his plan to scale Everest just two months after his fall, even though his doctors have told him to rest.

"It's a big expedition and I'll be more cautious," he said. "But nothing will stop me from going."

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