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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK

World: South Asia

Everest veteran scales new heights

Everest attracts climbers from all over the world

An amateur climber may have become the first Briton to scale Mount Everest from both the north and south.

The Nepalese tourism ministry says Graham Ratcliffe, a father-of-two, is now one of eight Western climbers to have scaled the world's highest mountain. But his supporters are still waiting for confirmation of the record.

The achievement would mean third time lucky for the 44-year-old from Tynemouth, Tyneside.

[ image: Graham Ratcliffe has already successfully scaled Everest]
Graham Ratcliffe has already successfully scaled Everest
Twice he has been unsuccessful in reaching the summit from the south, the famous route used by Hillary and Tenzing during their historic ascent of 1953.

Mr Ratcliffe, who runs a shop and clothing business, reached the peak, from the north face, in 1995.

He then went back in 1996 to try from the south but conditions proved too difficult.

Climbing for 10 years

Another attempt in 1998 was derailed when he was stopped by a virus.

Mr Ratcliffe says he is not a professional climber and relies heavily on his own cash and sponsorship to fund his expeditions.

His interest in climbing began when he tackled Africa's highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at the age of 34.

Married to Catherine, he has two daughters, Amy 18, and Angela, 21.

[ image: The climbing season comes to an end on 31 May]
The climbing season comes to an end on 31 May
Mrs Ratcliffe, 43, said she was still waiting to hear from him, but she believed that communications in the area were down.

She said: "I have seen the reports myself tonight, and I have been scanning the Internet to see if there is any confirmation.

"I will be absolutely thrilled and elated if Graham has reached the top. I have lost count of the times he has been on the mountain now, but every time I worry about him."

Mrs Ratcliffe said she did not know when she would next be able to speak to him.

BBC North, which has been charting his progress step-by-step, said that its latest Web site update could confirm only that he was away from base camp and currently out of contact.

Details of Mr Ratcliffe's achievement and that of the other climbers who reportedly reached the peak - three Americans, two Swedes, a Canadian and an Australian - were given by the Nepalese tourism ministry.

It added that nine other teams of climbers were currently trying to conquer the summit before the mountaineering season ends on 31 May.

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