Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Expedition leader praises soldiers

The Walking With The Wounded team in front of Mount Everest
Russell Brice keeps an eye on the hills around Mount Everest Base Camp

The Walking With The Wounded team have performed so well in training that they will be treated no differently from able-bodied climbers when they take on Mount Everest, the expedition leader has said.

Five injured soldiers with gunshot wounds, horrific burns and amputated limbs will attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain in May.

Russell Brice, the boss of Himalayan Experience (Himex), has kept a close eye on the team since they started preparing for the challenge in 2011.

The 59-year-old, who has reached the 8,848m peak twice, said: "They all came to Chamonix for training and they showed to us their determination and their ability."

Mr Brice, from Christchurch in New Zealand, was asked by the charity to assess and select a team to tackle Everest last year. He said: "They came to Manaslu and there they performed excellently, so it didn't become a decision from my part because they distinguished themselves so well. It became a Walking With The Wounded decision as to who would be coming to the mountain."

Former Captain Martin Hewitt, 31, from Widnes in Cheshire, Captain David Wiseman, 29, from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, Captain Francis Atkinson, 31, from Swindon in Wiltshire, former Private Karl Hinett, 25, from Tipton in the West Midlands and Private Jaco van Gass, 25, from Middleburg in South Africa are the team who will attempt to reach the summit next month.

Mr Hewitt, Capt Wiseman and Capt Atkinson were shot while serving in Afghanistan, Pte van Gass had his arm blown off by a rocket in Helmand Province and Mr Hinett received 37% burns when his tank was petrol bombed in Iraq.

Mr Brice said: "We don't really need to put a huge amount of extra precaution because we put such a strong emphasis on safety. We have a doctor who understands their special needs, I understand their needs, and so do the Sherpas."

All of Mr Brice's clients, including the wounded servicemen, will each have a Sherpa when they are higher up the mountain, and the guide-to-climber ratio is one-to-four.

One of the key things, according to Mr Brice, is reading the weather forecast and understanding when best to send clients to the summit. "It's ultra important because most people, once they attempt to summit, they don't have enough energy to go back and do it again," he said.

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