TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 5:30PM: John Layfield was trapped in a tent on a mountain for three days in freezing weather, but that won’t stop him from doing it all again, he says.
Mr Layfield tackled Mount Aconcagua, also known as Mount Death, but didn’t make it to the top due to horrible weather. A storm claimed the lives of two climbers on the mountain during his time there.
The former WWE wrestler and pro-football player was on the Andes mountain for two weeks.
It was the third climb he’d made for the Beyond Rugby Bermuda programme he started along with The Family Centre.
Mr Layfield, who was the longest-reigning WWE champion when he wrestled under the pseudonym JBL, completed his ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa last October.
He is doing The Seven Summits Challenge — climbing the highest peak on every continent — to raise money for the Family Centre.
Kilimanjaro was the second peak attempted by the 45-year-old.
In June, he had to turn back when he was in sight of the top of Mount Elbrus because the weather was turning from bad to deadly.
Mr Layfield spoke to us from the Mendoza Airport today in Argentina where he awaited a flight to Santiago, Chili.
From there, he will fly to Dallas and then back to Bermuda on Thursday.
“It was great,” he said. “We had bad storms and it’s the worst year on record.
“We got caught in a storm that killed a couple of people. We were camping for a couple of days and we couldn’t go down or up.
“We knew another storm was coming Sunday night so we came off the mountain.”
He continued: “It was disappointing. My fitness was there and I was in good condition.
“We spent a lot longer on the mountain but we just never got a window long enough up high to be able to summit.
Mr Layfield told us about his experience during the storm.
“We sat there and weathered the storm for two to three days. We were getting hit like a hurricane in a small plastic bag.
“We couldn’t have lasted three more days.
“We had to carry everything up the mountain ourselves. We had to make the decision to try to make the summit, which was impossible, or come down.”
He continued: “It was really cold and it was windy. As long as you were in the sleeping bag with nothing exposed, you were okay.
“We were stuck in a sleeping bag in a tent for three days. I was fine with it.
“I really thought we might have a chance, but the storm got worse and didn’t get better.”
Mr Layfield said the two climbers who died on the mountain weren’t part of his group.
“It was probably minus five, or minus ten degrees and the wind was blowing, minus 50 or 60.
“It was freezing. At that height, if you lost a glove, you lost a hand.
“It was unforgiving territory.”
In addition to cold temperatures and the wind, it was also snowing and icy.
“I looked one time in the tent and we had enough snow on my sleeping bag to make a snowball”, he added.
Mr Layfield said he isn’t discouraged because his team worked hard and had a great time.
“I feel great. It was amazing. Once we got off the high camp, we started feeling the temperature go down.
“By the time I was down at base camp, I felt great.
“For a few days after, you feel a huge amount of energy.”
Mr Layfield said it took eight or nine hours to get down the mountain to base camp and another 18 miles to get off the mountain.
Asked about the first thing he ate when he got back, he said: ‘Steak. Argentina is known for the steak.
“Even at base camp we had great food. Once we got up on the mountain, the food wasn’t great.”
Mr Layfield plans to celebrate when he returns to Bermuda on Thursday.
He plans to climb Mont Blanc in the Alps and will return to Mount Aconcagua in January.
One hundred percent of funds donated will go towards Mr Layfield’s Beyond Rugby programme.
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