This week a team of wounded, injured and sick Servicemen (WIS) will head to the French Alps for a 10-day climbing course supported by the Endeavour Fund.
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.
To make this accessible and open to as many WIS as possible, no previous climbing experience was necessary to be involved in the beginners climbing course. However, depending on mountain and weather conditions, the group will potentially have the chance of attempting Mont Blanc at the end of it.
Also taking part will be 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. He also recently attempted to summit the Matterhorn but had to turn back due to exhaustion.
Neil now wants to pass on his passion for climbing and the impact it can have on the recovery of WIS by leading a group in Chamonix this week. Over the course of 10 days, they will learn mountaineering skills including rope, snow and ice techniques. 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.
Neil says: “I hope the course will provide a wonderful opportunity for the group to become active again. I know that climbing made a huge impact on my own recovery and want to use my experience to give fellow wounded, injured and sick Servicemen the same opportunity. I really want to make climbing more accessible to beginners and experienced climbers alike and so hope that our course will provide networks, peer mentoring, training and of course, friendship with likeminded individuals. Also, nothing can beat climbing a mountain on a sunny day and feeling you’re on top of the world – so it should be a great week!”
The Endeavour Fund is a programme managed by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It 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. AIG, the global insurance company, last year signed up as the lead corporate partner of the Endeavour Fund for the next three years.