A FATHER whose sons were both born prematurely has attempted to climb one of the world’s most treacherous mountains to raise £5,000 for a childbirth charity.

Former RAF training instructor Steve Graham, from Darlington, travalled to Mount McKinley, in Alaska, US, as part of his ambition to reach a summit in each of the seven continents to raise funds for Bliss.

Unfortunately, the team failed to reach the summit of the 5,500m (18,000ft) mountain by only a few hundred metres, because of extreme weather conditions and avalanches.

After waiting for 12 days, they eventually ran out of food. Despite the set-back, the 38-year-old plumbing and heating engineer has so far raised £1,470 for the charity.

Mr Graham was inspired by his sons, Sam, ten, and Max, three, who were both born prematurely and spent several weeks in intensive care.

Both boys are now healthy, but Mr Graham and his wife, Hollie, 36, were so grateful for the help and funding given by Bliss for equipment and research into premature births, he decided to raise as much money as possible for the charity.

“As any climber knows, not summiting is a big part of mountaineering and, although it can initially be difficult to come to terms with, the experience really brought home the importance of the work Bliss carries out for premature babies and their families,” he said.

“A premature baby’s survival depends on so many factors outside of the parents’ and in some cases doctors’ control and climbing is similarly dependant on factors that are beyond our control.

“When we eventually had to turn around without reaching the summit, it made me realise how fragile that balance is between success and failure, or in the case of a premature baby, the difference between life and death.

“As such, I’m loathe to compare something as mundane as mountaineering with regards to the real life, and worries of families with premature babies.

“Some might argue that having not got to the top, the expedition was unsuccessful.

However, I would describe it as a huge success, given the money raised for Bliss. If it goes even partway to saving one child, I will be more proud of my achievements than I would have been sticking a flag in the ground at the top of a big hill.”

Anyone who would like to sponsor Mr Graham can go to justgiving.com/stevegraham7