A MOUNTAINEER from South Tyneside is organising his final trips to the world’s highest peaks – but not before a spot of gold mining.
Steve Berry, 56, is on a mission to complete the Seven Summits – the tallest mountains on each continent.
So far he has scaled five – Alaska’s Mount McKinley, Mount Everest in the Himalayas, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, Argentina’s Aconcagua and Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
In April this year, he expected to fly to Russia to conquer Mount Elbrus, which would have left him with Antarctica’s Vinson Massif, which costs £40,000 to join an expedition.
But just before he left, Mr Berry, married to Jennie, was contacted by Everest climbing partner Jamie Wilde, who asked him to fly to Uganda to work on a village water supply project.
He was told once he had drilled 70 holes for water pumps, he would receive a free trip to Vinson, 750m from the South Pole and 16,000ft high. However, all was not as it seemed and he returned before the project ended.
Mr Berry, of Central Avenue, South Shields, said: “There was a lot of obstacles to getting things done in Uganda.
“Everything took much longer to do than we thought. By July, I was supposed to well on my way to reaching my 70 bore hole target but it was unrealistic. It got too much and I left.”
After leaving Uganda, Mr Berry took students to Bolivia and Peru for a month. While there, he was asked to help set up a gold mine in the Andes.
He added: “I’m going to give it a go, but I’m going to have a good look at the project before agreeing.
“Vinson is back on the cards, but before then my plan is to go straight from Bolivia to Russia and climb Elbrus.
“Living at altitude in the Andes means that I will be fully acclimatised.
“I have pencilled in Vinson for late next year; subject to the gold mine being a winner!”