Suffolk man helps first blind Brit climb Europe’s highest mountain peak
PUBLISHED: 16:49 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 21:30 17 October 2018
A climber from Ipswich has helped the first British blind man to reach the summit of Europe’s highest mountain.
Former Copleston High School pupil Paul Etheridge, 42, who now lives in the Lake District, guided 23-year-old Jack Garner, from Scunthorpe, to the top of Mount Elbrus on the Russian/Georgian border.
The gruelling climb up the 5,642m mountain took them eight days in treacherous conditions, with the pair facing wind speeds of more than 50mph and temperatures as low as -37C.
Mr Garner lost his sight as a youngster over the course of a few months due to a genetic condition.
Paul, who trained as a teacher at Otley College, described Jack’s effort as ‘incredible’.
“This young man has been blind since the age of 11,” he said.
“To comprehend what he has achieved you can try closing your eyes when climbing - you freeze straight away, you become petrified.
“There is a phenomenal amount of trust you need between you so he knows I am leading him on the right track.
“When we were off trekking in the snow he held onto my elbow or a loop at the bottom of my rucksack.
“Every step I walked, he walked.”
Mr Etheridge said Jack took the whole experience in his stride. He said: “This young man is so understated, so blasé about what he has achieved.
“He thinks nothing of it, this guy.
“Can you imagine doing something simple like going into your kit bag to find something with your eyes closed?
“When we got to the summit I said ‘do you realise you are probably the first person who has ever done this’.”
He said he had checked with the Guinness Book of World Records who told him no blind British man had ever completed the feat.
Mr Etheridge said they picked up the pace when heading to the peak.
“There were four other climbers in front of us, two Koreans and two Russians. “I said to Jack ‘do you fancy putting a bit of an effort in to see if we can be the first to the top?’.
“Jack didn’t hesitate at all. “We managed to get past both groups.
“Jack was quite emotional when we reached the summit but I guess I pushed him overtaking the final two.”