One-Armed Afghan War Vet to Climb Everest with Badass Prosthetic Ice-Pick

Illustration for article titled One-Armed Afghan War Vet to Climb Everest with Badass Prosthetic Ice-Pick

Losing an arm in Afghanistan isn't stopping Private Jaco Van Gass from climbing the highest mountain in the world. The 25-year-old South African soldier is testing a prosthetic ice axe of his own design, which he'll use to climb Mt. Everest next month.

Van Gass had the idea to attach a pick to a false arm after he traveled to the North Pole last year with Walking with the Wounded, a U.K. charity that helps rehabilitate soldiers injured in the field. He asked engineers at a rehab center in Britain to help him design the axe.

The badass tool is formed from a regular axe, with one side sawed off and attached to the prosthetic. It also includes an electrical system to keep van Gass's stump heated.


Van Gass will be joined by four other injured vets on his trek. Can't wait to see what kind of specialized gear they've been outfitted with. [The Guardian via The Daily What]

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I admire his ballsiness, but I'm not sure how well his gear will work on Everest. In the pic, the axe in his right hand is a small axe with a recurved pick used in vertical ice climbing—which is what he appears to be doing in the picture. His prosthetic, on the other hand, appears to be fitted with a non-recurved alpine pick, which is not so great for vertical ice (they tend to get stuck). But then there isn't really vertical ice on Everest anyway—the Hillary step is about as technical as it gets and there is a ladder. So for Everest, you really want an alpine axe anyway. Unfortunately, having an alpine axe *head* is not the same thing as having an alpine axe—they are typically longer and serve as a hiking aid, for one. I'd also be really worried about whether he can actually perform a self-arrest with his prosthetic—the longer alpine axe is usually secured across your body in a self arrest so you don't lose the axe. Again, I admire what he is trying to do, but I'd hate to see him just become another frozen corpse.