Every so often, the world is treated to an extraordinary event that touches and inspires us, yet goes terribly underreported. This is a story of extraordinary ambition, courage, and will that reaches out to those who believe that injury has robbed them of their aspirations, reminding them that their dreams and aspirations can never be dashed.
In spring 2012, nine British soldiers, wounded in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, will attempt an extraordinary climb up Mt. Everest as part of the Walking With The Wounded expedition. The team is raising awareness in support of the Wounded Warrior Project, set up to support injured soldiers and rehabilitate them back to health while helping them realize their ambitions.
With Prince Harry as their patron and led by team leader Martin Hewitt, whose right arm was paralyzed by two gunshot wounds and veteran of a North Pole expedition in April 2011, the climbers are currently en-route to Base Camp, expecting to arrive on April 9th. They will spend several weeks at base camp honing their skills and acclimatizing to the altitude before beginning their climb in late April. The team will have to navigate the treacherous Khumbu Glacier, with its spires of ice and deep crevasses, and then scale the 3,000 ft (914 m) Lhotse face, the wall of ice that separates Everest from her neighbor. Following the South Col, the high ridge that leads to the summit, they will then have to climb the Hillary Step, a 40 ft (12 m) rock wall slope that leads to the summit ridge. The team expects to make a summit attempt with the weather permitting between the 13th and 27th of May.
Last year, the team, along with Prince Harry, were successful in a 200 mile traverse of the North Pole.
The nature of these men’s injuries make the story all the more incredible. This ranges from Jaco Van Gass from South Africa, who is climbing with a prosthetic arm, specially fitted to allow the attachment of an ice ax, to Chris Gwild who was left with total deafness from the blast of a rocket propelled grenade. The team who are profiled here, have been rehabilitated back to mountaineering fitness through an intense training regimen, and their background varies from climbers, to skiers, and marathon runners.
The expedition is documenting their journey through dispatches and video blogs that can we accessed through the expedition website. The team is also accepting donations to support future endeavors and make a difference for injured servicemen and women.
As a fellow climber, I offer my full support to the expedition and can wish nothing but good fortune to this extraordinary team. Check out their website, read their dispatches, and be inspired by their will and their courage.