A skier with altitude set to bag the big seven

Graham Austick, a 26-year-old from Northumberland, has set his sights on becoming the first person to ski from the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

He hopes it will establish him as a professional ski-mountaineer. Culminating at Everest in 2000, it should at least provide a wealth of film and lecture material. But Mr Austick is not solely motivated by commerce. "Obviously...I am trying to make a career. But it is an irresistible challenge and it is going to be lots of fun," he said. He will go with a Danish film team and his Austrian climbing partner, Lother Brunner.

Ski-mountaineering is a hybrid of two activities. Ascending is made possible by "skins" on each ski to give uphill traction. Icy or rocky sections are climbed conventionally, with skis carried on the rucksack. At the high point the "skins" are removed and the thrill of skiing down begins, though tricky sections may have to be abseiled or down-climbed.

Mr Austick's first target, in May, is Mt Elbrus (5,642m), in the Russian Caucasus, regarded as Europe's highest peak. In November the team flies to Argentina to attempt Acon- cagua (6,960m), where winds can reach 160mph and where temperatures can fall to -45C.

The 1998 programme is Mt McKinley (6,194m), in Alaska, and Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m), in Tanzania. In 1999 Austick will aim for Mt Vinson (4,897m), in Antarctica, and Mt Cook (3,754m), in New Zealand, though the Australasian target could shift to Indonesia.

Finally, in May 2000 comes Everest (8,848m), which has been skied before. In May last year Hans Kammerlander, from South Tyrol, reached the summit in a record 17-hour climb, alone and without oxygen. He skied down, removing his skis for a few small sections.

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