Adventurer's trek will end on Everest

LONG JOURNEY: Rochelle Rafferty with the ashes of her husband, Paddy Freaney.
LONG JOURNEY: Rochelle Rafferty with the ashes of her husband, Paddy Freaney.

Paddy Freaney is taking one last stab at Mt Everest, the one peak he never managed to reach.

The larger-than-life adventurer passed away in March, but that has done nothing to quell his exploits or position in the Upper Waimak Basin community.

At the end of March, Freaney, wife Rochelle Rafferty, and mutual friend Russell Brice, will travel to the Himalayas for their bid to conquer the highest mountain on Earth.

Rafferty will carry her partner of 20 years all the way to the summit in a small canister.

The couple had planned to travel to Everest base camp in 2011, but just before they were due to leave Freaney was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On that trip, Rafferty was considering trying for the summit.

"I was quite keen to give it a go a couple of years ago" Rafferty said. "Paddy didn't want to do that climb again but he was keen to support me."

When Freaney knew his time was limited, he wanted Rafferty to realise her desire to conquer Everest.

Soon after he died she received an email from an old friend of Freaney's, recounting a conversation they had: "I am sure Paddy will be with you and is proud of you. He actually said once to me that whilst he'd be too old to climb Everest, it is you who really could make it, and that he'd protect you by mentally climbing with you, side-by-side."

Rafferty would be only the fifth New Zealand woman to stand on top of the world. And she could not be doing it in better company.

It was through Brice that the couple met, and it was through Freaney that Brice got his first shot at Everest.

Freaney attempted Everest three times. The first two attempts were thwarted by bad weather. On the third, he injured his ankle while training in Nepal.

In his place he sent Brice, who has gone on to become one of the foremost mountaineers the the world.

The local community is backing Rafferty all the way to the summit.

They have organised a raft race on Lake Pearson, north of Porters Pass ski area on February 16, and have put high country experiences up for auction on Trade Me to raise money for the attempt.

Conquering Everest does not come cheap. The compulsory climbing permit is more than $11,000.

Freaney, a former sergeant-instructor in the British Army's elite Special Air Service, is still a pivotal part of the community. He attends community events and adventures from the relative comfort of a small box, riding with Rafferty and friends Heather Harrington, Richard Hill and Richard Smith on Friday.

"Paddy was inspirational," Hill said. Smith added: "Paddy taught you that life was for living, and he certainly did that like nobody else."

Sunday Star Times