FOUR years after a young woman lost a leg in a lifesaving operation she is scaling new heights by climbing for her country.

Esme Harte is currently in the Austrian alps (Until Sunday, July 6) to represent Great Britain in her first European paraclimbing competition.

The 20-year-old, from Sedgefield, County Durham, had her lower left leg amputated when clots, caused by previously undiagnosed antiphospholipid syndrome or sticky blood syndrome, impaired the flow of blood to her foot.

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That was in December 2010, and at the age of 16 Esme had to learn to walk again and adapt to life with a prosthetic limb.

But by November the following year she dusted off her climbing shoes and was back in the harness to relearn to climb.

Her father, Joe Harte, said: “She is extremely strong mentally but even so it was a hugely shocking, life changing thing to have to deal with at such a young age.

“But the fact is, her foot was effectively dying and the toxins were suppressing her vital organs so there was nothing for it but to amputate to save her life.

“She was so weak and in hospital a long time, it took some months before she was walking.

“It has been a long, slow process but she is so determined and when she is climbing people often don’t realise she is an amputee, she is an inspiration.”

After finishing third overall in the British Mountaineering Council Paraclimbing Series in May, Esme was invited to join the GB national team.

To do so she had competed with much more experienced, sponsored and specially coaching athletes in London, Newcastle and Manchester.

She said: “I never thought it was possible. It was just a dream, like winning the lottery or travelling the world.”

Mr Harte added: “We are so unbelievably proud of her.

“We can barely hold her on the ground, she is so excited about the whole thing.”

Climbing was just one of Esme’s hobbies before she became unwell.

She enjoyed jujitsu and Scouts, was a junior councillor and junior mayor for Sedgefield and had excelled at Sedgefield Community College before studying A-levels at New College Durham.

She is now a climbing instructor at Rock Antics, in Newton Aycliffe, and works for an outdoor education firm and hopes to make a career out of her love of adventure.

Visit the website to support Esme’s sporting ambitions.