Scale heights of ambition, says Belper’s Mr Frostbite

Mountaineer Nigel Vardy, from Belper, during his visit to Derbyshires Trent College.
Mountaineer Nigel Vardy, from Belper, during his visit to Derbyshires Trent College.

“Never give up, however many challenges you may face” – that was the message from Belper mountaineer Nigel Vardy as he encouraged students to scale the highest possible heights of their ambitions.

In 1999 Nigel, AKA Mr Frostbite, suffered severe frostbite in temperatures of -60°C on Mount McKinley in Alaska, costing him his fingers, nose and all of his toes.

But in an inspiring tale of resilience, recovery and adversity against the odds, he has gone on to climb some of the world’s toughest and most challenging mountains.

Belper-raised Nigel, who started climbing on Mount Snowdon as a six-year-old and spent many years walking in his native Peak District, visited Long Eaton’s Trent College to speak to sixth form students as part of its Arts and Speakers programme.

The programme sees guests from politics, academia, sport, the arts, industry and adventure visit the school to widen students’ horizons and help them embrace the academic and non-academic challenges of school, university and life beyond.

David Tidy, Trent College assistant headteacher (Curriculum), who co-ordinates the Arts and Speakers Programme, said: “Nigel’s talk was incredibly inspiring and showed the true resilience of the human spirit under exceptionally difficult circumstances. He helped the students realise that a setback does not have to mean the end of their dreams.”

Nigel recounted how, as he and his friends Steve and Anthony approached the summit, illness and a fierce storm led to them having to hide in a crevasse overnight.

The men were eventually recovered in the highest-ever helicopter rescue.

Steve had broken both of his legs in an attempt to get help, which led to a below-knee amputation, and Nigel endured the injuries that saw him spend two weeks in hospital before being flown back to the UK to continue treatment in Nottingham City Hospital.

Despite taking several years of treatment to recover, Nigel returned to climbing within two years and back to altitude in 2002 on Island Peak in Nepal.