"The mountain won," an emotional Sam Hayes has revealed, after taking to Instagram to let her followers know that she was abandoning her mission to climb to the summit of Mt Aconcagua, in Argentina.
The Newshub presenter began her 18-day trek of the Andes mountain range on January 7 and was less than 300m from the summit when her health took a turn for the worse. She made the "horrible decision" to turn back.
"Well, I didn't make it to the 6962m summit of Mt Aconcagua," she wrote in an Instagram post, "and I'm still coming to terms with that, but I did get to 6700m before the altitude and cold got the better of me.
"I saw members of my group with the first stages of frostbite on their faces and hands and a determination to get up the mountain which was breath-taking. In the end, I was shaking and spent, breathing so hard I was hyperventilating."
Her determination to remain positive shone through in her post: "Nevertheless, it was an extraordinary day," she said.
"We woke at 3am for breakfast and to prepare, setting off at 5am under the stars, huffing and puffing as the sun appeared and tried in vain to warm us."
However, the climbing party faced chilling head winds "which succeeded in pushing us around".
Hand warmers and "massive mittens" were used to try and keep some feeling in their fingers.
She revealed that the night before, the climbing party's guide had checked her oxygen saturation at 6,000m and found it to be between 55-67.
"In hospital they put you on oxygen if it's below 95! I just wasn't getting enough air to keep going. Turning back was a horrible decision to make, but I knew I also needed enough energy to get back to camp safely.
"One member of our group made it all the way up and I'm so proud of him. Keith said it's the hardest thing he's ever done. I'm told of the 60 people attempting to summit fewer than ten made it that day which makes his success even sweeter. My legs are jelly but my heart is full. It feels great to have attempted a challenge like this even if the mountain won."
Sam has been keeping her Instagram followers updated on her mission since she set off on January 7.
"Hola from Argentina & Happy New Year!," she announced. "I'm spending 18 days hiking in the Andes mountains attempting to summit Aconcagua - the highest mountain in South America. It's 6,962m! Why? Good question. I'm not quite sure... maybe just to see if I can? And to get out of my comfort zone so I appreciate all the little things in life a whole lot more when I get home.
"It'll be warm at the start, around 30C and freezing at the high camps and summit around -35C plus wind chill, but I've come prepared. These glacier sunglasses for example may not be the most stylish but they're crucial."
A few days after setting off two of her climbing companions had to abandon the trek due to altitude sickness.
"On the summit of Mt Bonete in Argentina," Sam wrote about the medical emergency. "At 5,000m it was a struggle and there were a few tears at the top, in part because two of our group had to be medically evacuated by helicopter from the mountain the day before due to altitude sickness.
"I hiked up my first mountain two and a half months ago and it was half Bonete's size. On this trip I set a goal of getting to the top of this peak. Making it 2,000m higher to the summit of Aconcagua will be a bonus. For now I'm very happy.
"There are times when I wonder why I'm doing this but the view from the top across into Chile and of the wider Aconcagua National Park was phenomenal. The weather was perfect for the summit too.. not so much today.. I'm in my tent, it's snowing and I can hear either thunder or avalanches. I'm going with thunder."
She may not have made it to the summit but she did incredibly well to get as far as she did.
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