Update: unfortunately due to adverse weather conditions Neil has had to make the difficult decision to postpone his climb. The Matterhorn has received a huge amount of snow over the last few days and Neil has been advised that it isn’t safe to attempt a summit. However he is already planning an attempt for next year.
In just a few days former British Army corporal Neil Heritage will attempt to become the first ever above the knee double amputee to scale and conquer one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe – the 4,478m (14,692ft) Matterhorn in Switzerland, known as the mountains of mountains.
This will be the second time that Neil will try to summit the Matterhorn, following an attempt last summer. He made the difficult decision to turn back when he realized he was physically unable to continue.
Neil’s attempt will take place from the 7th to the 18th August but remains weather dependent. He will be climbing with a team of seven including former soldiers Mark Hooks and Steve Green and four Guides. Neil will be climbing using two kinds of specially designed prosthetics. The first set will allow him to climb on rock in the lower section of the Matterhorn and the second set are designed with a crampon style for use on snow and ice.
Following his Matterhorn attempt, Neil will be returning to the Alps to use his experience to inspire others when he leads a team of six wounded, injured and sick Servicemen on an introductory alpine course, supported by the Endeavour Fund. Over the course of 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.
Neil hopes to repeat the success of last year’s alpine week which saw four participants summit the highest mountain in Italy and then go on to get intro qualifications allowing them to take others climbing in the future.
Neil 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.
In 2004, at the age of 24, Neil became the first British soldier to survive an above the knee double amputation after being blown up by a suicide bomber in Fallujah, Iraq. Having narrowly survived the explosion and following countless surgical operations Neil was told he would never walk again.
Neil’s extraordinary spirit and determination has made him an inspiration to many around the world as he continues to defy medical opinion and prove to all there is life beyond injury. He refused to accept he would never walk again and 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.
The Endeavour Fund supports wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel and Veterans using sport and adventurous challenges as part of their recovery and rehabilitation. The fund plays an important role in ensuring that more Servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover their self-belief and fighting spirit through physical challenges. In 2015, AIG, the global insurance company, signed up as the lead corporate partner of the Endeavour Fund for three years.