Sedgefield woman climbs new heights and inspires others

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte in competition

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte who won an international climbing contest four years after her leg was amputated. Picture: TOM BANKS

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte who won an international climbing contest four years after her leg was amputated. Picture: TOM BANKS

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte who won an international climbing contest four years after her leg was amputated. Picture: TOM BANKS

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte who won an international climbing contest four years after her leg was amputated. Picture: TOM BANKS

CLIMBING CHAMPION: Esme Harte who won an international climbing contest four years after her leg was amputated. Picture: TOM BANKS

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

ESME Harte loves to climb. Ever since she was eight-years-old, when her father, Joe, took her to a climbing wall for the first time, she has been hooked.

Now aged 20, Miss Harte is still at her happiest when scaling new heights or pushing herself to try more complex routes.

But these days her passion and life itself presents a new set of challenges.

For in 2010, at the age of 16, Miss Harte, from Sedgefield, County Durham, had her lower left leg amputated.

Clots, caused by previously undiagnosed antiphospholipid syndrome, or sticky blood syndrome, had impaired the flow of blood to her foot.

She was unconscious when her parents made the decision for doctors to amputate, a decision that saved the teenager’s life, as the toxins from her foot were suppressing vital organs.

“I didn’t find out until I came round,” said Miss Harte.

“It was quite difficult to come to terms with but I kept telling myself that I was still alive and the operation had saved me.”

It was a slow recovery but, with support and encouragement from her friends and family, Miss Harte began to walk again and adapt to life with a prosthetic limb.

And it was not long after that the adventurous teen was back in the climbing harness doing what she loves best.

Last month, The Northern Echo reported Miss Harte’s victory in the British Mountaineering Paraclimbing Series, which secured her a place in the GB national team.

She has gone on to compete in an international contest in Austria, where she won a gold medal, and is now training for competitions in Italy and Spain.

Miss Harte, a climbing instructor at Rock Antics in Newton Aycliffe, also visits hospitals and speaks to pre-amputation patients about life after losing a limb.

“When I first started climbing again it was hard not to compare what I was capable of now to what I could do before,” she said.

“But I learnt to adapt. I use my arms more now and they have become much stronger. I have also been developing new techniques with my coach.

“When I found out I made Team GB I was surprised but very happy. The other athletes are so supportive and inspiring.

“My advice to anyone in my position is just to keep going and don’t give up because there is a way to do everything.

“It’s not always the simplest way and you may have to work at it and try again and again but it is possible. Just be creative and think outside of the box.”

Miss Harte’s mother, Esther Harte, added: “We are very proud of Esme and we hope her story will inspire others.”

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