Footless Ecuadoran mountaineer to climb K2

Ilaló (Ecuador) (AFP) –


An Ecuadoran who lost both his feet is aiming to become the first climber to scale the world's toughest mountain, K2, with artificial limbs and without oxygen supplies.

Santiago Quintero had half of each foot amputated for frostbite after climbing Aconcagua in Argentina in 2002. But that has not stopped him.

"They told me I would never climb 5,000-meter mountains again," the smiling 41-year-old told AFP.

"But no one can tell me how I am and what I am. Being what I want to be is my decision."

Quintero scaled Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet), in 2013. The expedition landed him in the hospital in intensive care.

Now he is aiming to conquer K2 -- the second-highest mountain at 8,611 meters, but considered technically the hardest to climb.

He ascended K2, which is on the border between China and Pakistan, once before but stopped short of the summit. His party had to turn back when they sank up to their chests in snow.

He says he caught frostbite on Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, because he could not afford a $100 pair of waterproof covers for his boots.

He spent nine months in the hospital in Spain, where doctors performed the amputations, then a further five years waiting to have prosthetic feet fitted.

With those artificial members, he has already scaled seven of the 14 mountains in the world that are over 8,000 meters high.

In total 188 mountaineers have scaled K2.

"They did it with their bodies fully intact," said Quintero. "That's quite different."

He plans to start his hike up K2 on June 13 and finish on July 31.

"I am quite determined," he told AFP, while resting during a training climb on the extinct Ilalo volcano in northern Ecuador.

"Without the mountains, I think I would rather be dead."