For most of us, climbing Mount Everest with two arms would be an accomplishment. Private Jaco van Gass is doing it with only one.
The 25-year-old South African lost his left arm to a rocket-propelled grenade while serving in Afghanistan in 2009 in the British Parachute Regiment, The Guardian reported. He also suffered a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs and multiple shrapnel wounds.
Only 2 years after the incident, Van Gass had recovered enough to take part in a trek to the North Pole with the Walking with the Wounded charity in 2011 — a trip which gave him the idea of having a special prosthetic ice axe designed to take the place of his lost limb. He asked engineers at a military rehabilitation center to build him one.
“I came up with the idea to attach an ice axe to one of my prosthetics, he said. “So I kind of challenged the guys at Headley Court to see how we could get this done.
One innovative design element the solider was eager to have was an electrical system to heat his stump.
“It’s really essential for me because the lack of circulation in my arm actually prevents the flow of blood and oxygen at high altitude, so the arm gets really cold and is actually prone to frost-nip,” he said.
Van Gass, who has already climbed the world’s eighth-highest peak, Mt. Manaslu in Nepal, will primarily be using the ice axe for back-up and for particularly treacherous spots.
He will embark on his trek with four other injured vets in May.