65 Degrees North are taking on their next exciting challenge – ‘Conquering Kili’. Five injured Royal Marines and five female police officers from South Wales have just started their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding mountain.
This amazing challenge, which is being supported by the Endeavour Fund, will help raise funds for The Royal Marines Charity, which provides a better quality of life to serving and retired Royal Marines and their families.
‘Conquering Kili’ is being undertaken to promote disability awareness and recognise the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a normal reaction to extreme trauma and can affect anyone who is exposed to an extraordinary life-threatening situation which is perceived with intense fear, horror and helplessness. Through this challenge, Team Kili aims to breakdown the barriers of this complex and debilitating condition and encourage sufferers to open up and talk about this invisible disability.
Former RM & Project Manager Richard Morgan explains: “Not only do we hope to ‘Conquer Kili’ and overcome the physical and mental demands of the climb, ensuring each and every one of my team reaches the summit, but that we also conquer prejudice of mental health issues. We are proud to have an incredible team of Royal Marines join us for this expedition, some of whom have personally experienced the impact of PTSD and are willing to share their experiences of this invisible disability.”
Team Kili Member & former RM Danny Claricoates fully understands the stigma attached to this debilitating condition.
Looking for adventure, Danny joined the Royal Marines in 2003 at the age of 17. He deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 5, to the notorious Helmand Province and a particularly busy tour. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery but started displaying symptoms of PTSD soon after when the impact of losing 6 men from his unit, all very close friends, began to have an effect on him. He was prescribed anti-depressants but was very reluctant to admit that there anything was wrong. He was once again deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 9, where the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an IED, killing 2 of his closest friends and seriously injuring his Commanding Officer. He was flown home as a casualty to be later diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. Dark days followed and Danny was prescribed 3 types of anti-depressant and underwent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
Danny gradually began to manage his own treatment, finding peace in the outdoors that he loved as a child.
He explains: “I have learned to help myself. Every day people wake up and face a challenge, a struggle to simply get out of bed. The feeling of failure or fear that something bad will happen and makes you want to pull the duvet over your head. I face that challenge on almost a daily basis. This is my mental mountain which I have to climb most days!”
Being in the outdoors has helped Danny to be more mindful, to reflect and meditate. He adds: “I am very grateful to be a part of Conquering Kili. Some people may look at this project and say it’s only climbing a mountain, lots of people do it….and that is true, but for me this challenge is a metaphor for the bigger picture. If I can summit this mountain and ‘Conquer Kili’ then I can conquer anything life throws at me!’
Danny still suffers from PTSD, but has learned to hide it. “I wear a mask”, he says. With no visible wounds he finds it hard to explain himself “Loss of limb is visible; PTSD is not….”