Norman Croucher OBE
Norman Croucher OBE is the acclaimed mountain climber who, despite having two below the knee artificial legs, set out to climb just one of the world's 14 mountains which exceed 8,000 metres (about 26,250 feet) or as he put it 'join the 5-mile high club'. His goal truly was a near impossible dream.
Alongside such people as round-the-world yachtsman Chay Blyth, the World Motor Racing Champion Jackie Stewart, radio and TV personality Jimmy Saville and athletic champion Brendan Foster, Norman has twice been chosen as Man of the Year.
He has been the subject of a 'This is Your Life' programme and received an OBE for his voluntary work for disabled people. He was the first disabled person to be appointed to the Sports Council.
With Falklands veteran Simon Weston, he received a special "Men of the Years" award for continued achievement in celebration of the scheme's thirtieth anniversary.
Norman's training for high altitude began in 1969 with a punishing solo 874 mile walk from John o' Groats to Land's End. He then made a score of ascents in the Alps, including the Matterhorn, the Eiger and Mont Blanc. In 1978 he led a successful expedition to Peru, where he and his team ascended three mountains, including the north summit of the country's highest mountain, Huascaran, (6,654m - 21,830ft).
In 1981 he reached the top of his first Himalayan peak, White Needle (6,706m - 22,000ft) in Kashmir. The same year, on an expedition to Argentina, he seemed faced with failure when his left artificial leg broke because of metal fatigue, yet he set off on one leg to crawl and walk on crutches to the top of a mountain of 5,115m (16,801ft)! The next year he succeeded on Muztagh Ata (7,546m - 24,757ft) in China. His ascents of mountains in excess of 3,000m (9,840ft) number eighty, including sixteen above 6,000 (19,680ft).
His first attempt at an 8,000 metre peak ended when he was injured by a falling rock. On his second try, the leader of a commercial expedition, having accepted fees to organise an expedition supposedly for the benefit of his clients, proceeded to the summit with a sherpa, without giving an opportunity to any clients. Norman's third attempt ended at about 7,600m (25,00ft) because of frostbite. Not being one to give up easily, without bottled oxygen, he climbed the sixth highest mountain in the world, Cho Oyo in Tibet, which stands at 8,201m (26,906ft). On the descent he survived a night out at 7,800m without a tent or sleeping bag, by removing his legs and sliding inside his large, lightweight rucksack.
...you had your audience spellbound... We were absolutely enthralled... Our best ever! Your talk was voted quite the finest and most popular... yours was only the second standing ovation in the history of the society... You were superb!... Excellent, we were all delighted... a world class speaker... without exception the best and most amusing presentation they had ever attended... You got the highest score of the day!... an absolutely splendid talk, quite the best we have had... wonderful.