Six wounded, injured and sick Servicemen prepare for intensive climbing course in the French Alps

Six wounded, injured and sick Servicemen (WIS) have been selected to take part in this year’s Climb 2 Recovery course in the French Alps.

Climb 2 Recovery is run by Neil Heritage, who lost both legs above the knee after being blown up by a suicide bomber in Fallujah, Iraq. Following countless operations and having been told he would never walk again, Neil proved to the world there is life beyond injury. Since recovering and retraining over the years he has completed triathlons, learned to ski and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean unsupported in the inaugural Row2Recovery team.

Neil now wants to pass on his passion for climbing and the impact it can have on the recovery of WIS. He hopes that the course will inspire others who are struggling to come to terms with life after injury to see climbing and sport more generally as a tool to aid with their rehabilitation recovery.

24 people initially applied for the course which will take place in Chamonix, France from 28th August to 8th September. Neil then chose 10 from this group to go forward to the selection weekend at Awesome Walls in Sheffield. The final six were picked on the basis of finding WIS who had not been engaged in previous events and would benefit most from the course and resulting qualifications. To make this accessible and open to as many WIS as possible, no previous climbing experience was necessary to be involved in the climbing course.

Over the course of the 10 days, the group will learn mountaineering skills including rope, snow and ice techniques. The group will be led by UIAGM guides who will provide specialised intensive training, enabling them to learn quickly and reap the benefits of climbing as a rehabilitation tool.

Let’s meet some of those who will be going on the Climb 2 Recovery course:

Ollie is 25 years old and from Bristol. He was injured in March this year on a training exercise for Exercise Aquilla 17 where he suffered a brain injury. He decided to sign up for the course after a friend of his took part in it last year and recommended he get involved. Ollie hopes to gain valuable experience in mountaineering that will help him in his career pursuit of mountaineering instruction. 

Richard is a 31 year-old from South Wales. He joined the Royal Regiment of Wales in 2003 and did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Richard had always wanted to do some climbing but never really had the opportunity since he was diagnosed with severe PTSD in 2013. He found out about Climb 2 Recovery and jumped at the chance to get involved. As he explains: “It was a dream come true for me. I have been quite isolated and have missed the comradery I had when I was in the Army. I really want to do this so I can find myself again, to prove to myself that I can achieve it. It will give me the confidence and a meaning, a goal to work for towards my recovery. This is why I need to do this climb with the boys to give me the boost and the confidence.”

32 year-old Leigh originates from Manchester but now lives in Glasgow. He joined the Royal Navy in 2003 and three years later volunteered for the submarine service. Leigh was injured in 2009 but not diagnosed with PTSD until 2014. Prior to his injury he used to do quite a lot climbing and loved it. He hopes taking part in Climb 2 Recovery will give him the confidence to get back out and do some mountaineering which has a huge positive effect on his mental health.  

Anthony is 41 from Fleetwood. He served for 20 years and was medically retired in 2014 from the military with PTSD after several Operational tours. He was supported in his recovery by Adventure Quest. Anthony is one of the founders of Adventure with Heroes and is still an instructor on the veterans mountain programme delivered by Adventure Quest. He decided to try out for the Climb 2 Recovery course as he believes it will further help him with his recovery and also allow him to gain qualifications that will allow him to help other veterans use sport and adventure therapy as part of their recovery. 

Climb 2 Recovery is supported by the Endeavour Fund which plays an important role in ensuring that more Servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover their self-belief and fighting spirit through physical and adventure challenges.