After the outstanding success of the North Pole expedition, Walking with the Wounded have set their sights higher for 2012 – to successfully summit Mount Everest and put 5 wounded servicemen on top of the world.
The expedition will consist of two parts, but each will be challenging in its own way. The first is the 7-day trek from Namche Bazaar in Eastern Nepal to Base Camp at 5380m – when up to 8 severely injured service personnel will overcome terrain that is a feat for even the fittest of trekkers. Then part of the expedition will continue on – for the assault on the summit.
One of the toughest challenges
Climbing Everest is one of the toughest challenges in adventure exploration: narrow ridges with 3km falls; altitude sickness and immense fatigue; unpredictable weather and sudden storms; precipitous climbing over ice-covered rocks; deep crevasses covered with treacherous snow bridges. It took 30 years of attempts to conquer the mountain, and over 200 people have failed to return from its jagged slopes.
Five wounded servicemen
With these obstacles to success, it is clear why any attempt on Everest is a phenomenal undertaking. But Walking With The Wounded will be doing it with 5 wounded servicemen. The challenge of ice-climbing and negotiating crevasses will be all the more insurmountable, as will the immense difficulty of daily tent-life: the drying of clothes, cooking of food and prevention of frostbite that is essential to keeping the body capable of this monumental task.
A team of determined, hardy and tenacious soldiers has been selected through interview, trials in the Brecon Beacons and technical climbing assessments around Mont Blanc. Their training continues with further work in the Alps and Himalayas, then months of conditioning in the British mountains before the departure for Nepal next May, and an expedition every bit as ground-breaking as those first ascents of 50 years ago.
Who are Walking with the Wounded (WWTW)?
Walking with the Wounded was established in 2010 to raise funds for the re-education and re-training of our wounded servicemen and women.
For most, leaving the Armed Forces was not something they were planning before their injuries, and so most are not prepared for the move from one career to another. Further to this they are now facing a future with physical and mental disabilities.
For these brave young men and women, their future security will be under-pinned by finding employment. They have already proven their ability to learn and adapt to new situations, but many of them do not have the necessary skills or confidence to find a job in the civilian world.
WWTW helps fund training and education to help them find a career, so that they can support themselves and re-build a life in the civilian work place. We don’t just focus on those leaving the services today – the lack of awareness of the impact of physical and mental injury dates back to the Falklands and Northern Ireland. WWTW aims to provide a support network to all injured veterans.
Safety Fears Halt Everest Challenge
A team of injured soldiers attempting to scale Mount Everest has been forced to pull out of the challenge because of safety concerns.
A Walking With The Wounded spokesman said unseasonably warm conditions meant that it was not safe for the group to continue, with an increased number of avalanches and falling ice hampering their efforts.
They will make a live broadcast from Everest on Thursday and withdraw the following day, the charity spokesman said.
He added: “The safety of our expedition is of the utmost importance for us.”
The five current and former soldiers, who had suffered gun-shot wounds, horrific burns and amputated limbs, arrived in Nepal at the end of March before setting off on a trek to the Everest Base Camp. They had been due to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, which stands at 8,848m (29,028ft) above sea level, towards the end of the month.
The charity spokesman said it was the “warmest season ever” on Everest, with a lack of snow meaning that there was nothing binding the rocks together, leading to rock falls. He added: “We have to climb through ice crevices as well, and they keep falling and crashing.”
Prince Harry, patron of the charity, who last year joined a Walking With The Wounded expedition for the first four days of a successful trip to the North Pole, had paid a surprise visit to the men as they left the UK.
He said at the time: “The expedition to the Himalayas – of which I am so proud to be patron – is raising money to train and educate those with physical and cognitive injuries suffered in war to manage their transition into civilian employment.”
The team has been led by Martin Hewett, 31, from Widnes in Cheshire, a former Captain in the Parachute Regiment, who was shot twice through his right shoulder in Afghanistan in 2007, which paralysed his arm.
The rest of the team is made up of Captain Francis Atkinson, Captain David Wiseman, Private Jaco van Gass and former Private Karl Hinett.