Cookstown's Emma Smyth battles snow storm to conquer 7000m summit 'for dad'

Dr Emma Smyth with partner Phil Purdy at the summit of Aconcagua

Dr Emma Smyth with partner Phil Purdy at the summit of Aconcagua

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A former Cookstown woman scaled the highest mountain in South America just before Christmas to raise funds for research into oesophageal cancer.

But climbing the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere - the Aconcagua - at nearly 7000m, wasn’t plain sailing as the adventure was nearly compromised by a terrible storm.
Emma, whose dad Dr Ernie Smyth was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in October, and her team, including partner Phil Purdy, were trapped in their tents for three days until the storm abated.
“Many teams turned back and failed to summit but our team persevered to success,” she told the Mail.
She admits she was driven by a determination to help her dad who retired just three years ago after being a GP in Cookstown for 40 years.
After dedicating his working life to the NHS and caring for patients with various conditions, he knows more than most how devastating cancer can be.
Emma and Phil along with the other members of ‘Climbing Mountains to Beat Cancer’ have raised more than £300,000 for various Cancer Research UK projects since 2009.
“This expedition was special due to the personal circumstances of the fundraising,” she stressed. “To summit under all these conditions made it memorable and special.”
Emma, who now lives and works in the Yorkshire Dales, is the only woman to have so far summitted the Argentinian mountain this season. Only 20 per cent of climbers reach the top of the mountain.
Dr Ernie Smyth believes an improvement in oesophageal cancer treatment is urgently needed.
He said: “The fundraising isn’t for me, but if it can help in some small way to improving the prospects of those affected by this dreadful disease then it’s been very worthwhile.
“Cancer Research UK has done some incredible research and made significant progress over recent years and I have every confidence that in the foreseeable future there will be better treatments for this dreadful disease with your kind donations.”
Many people in the Mid Ulster area have given generously towards the fund. So far, the Aconcagua climb has raised more than £12,500. If you would like to donate the web address is https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/myprojects/lung-cancer-support-vital-research-into-lifesaving-treatments

Dr Emma Smyth and partner Phil Purdy were trapped in their team for three days scaling the South American mountain

Dr Emma Smyth and partner Phil Purdy were trapped in their team for three days scaling the South American mountain

Snowbound. The team were trapped in a blizzard for three days

Snowbound. The team were trapped in a blizzard for three days

Stunning scenery from the top of the Aconcagua mountain in Argentina

Stunning scenery from the top of the Aconcagua mountain in Argentina