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One man and the Matterhorn

There are some causes that are especially close to our hearts. Climb2Recovery is one of them. They’re a charity that helps ex-soldiers with life-changing injuries regain confidence and fitness through alpine climbing.

We heard about them last year, when one of our founders, John, introduced us to Climb2Recovery’s founder Neil Heritage, who he’d been mentoring. Neil’s a former solider himself, and a double leg amputee. And this week, he’ll be making his third, and hopefully final, attempt to climb the Matterhorn as part of Climb2Recovery.

You can follow the climb below with live updates from the man himself. And, if you’d like to know more about Neil and his challenge, just head over to our journal.

A final update on Neil’s 2018 Matterhorn attempt, from his team

As we’re sure you’re all aware, Neil wasn’t able to reach the summit.

That being said, it’s the most successful attempt to date.

Before last year’s attempt, we started working with a new team of guides. Unfortunately, last year, Mother Nature prevented us from even stepping foot on the mountain.

This year though, we’ve established strong relationships and a real understanding of abilities between the guides and the other members of the team. All the preparation and success to reach 3,800m was flawless. If the weather had played its part, there’s little doubt whatsoever that Neil would, should and could’ve reached the summit.

We all know what happened next.

This led to the team putting the extraction plan into action, which we expected to take two days minimum. Surprisingly though, we achieved it in one day. This was down to the organisational skills of the guides and Neil’s tenacity, grit and willpower. Once down to the Abruzzi Hut, we all enjoyed a well-deserved bed for the night.

The following morning, we met for a debriefing to discuss accomplishments. We decided that each member of the team would spend the next few weeks reflecting on this year’s attempt before putting forward their suggestions moving forward.

There are two main things to think about:

1. Is it practical for Neil to safely summit the Matterhorn within usual timescales available?

2. Is this something Neil’s willing to continue to endure?

Obviously, the second point is a personal decision for Neil to make.

We’re going to finish this post by congratulating Neil.

Firstly, for the effort he’s put into organising everything leading up to the climb.

And also, because the sheer pain he’s put his body through in training and for the 30+ hours ascending and descending the mountain is staggering. For those that don’t personally know Neil, he does all of this without complaint or excuse.

The man is a warrior on so many fronts and it’s a pleasure to call him a friend. Neil, you do so much for others when you have so many reasons to be inwardly focused.

Whatever decision you make moving forward, please be proud of all you’ve achieved.

From the moment that first doctor informed you that you’ll never walk again. Through to proving them wrong, rowing the Atlantic, qualifying as a fitness instructor to help able-bodied people stay fit and healthy, setting up charities to help others, and finally showing other injured people that there is actually life after injury.

Hold your head high and continue to grip life by the throat showing it who’s in charge.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the person you are.

Love from all the lives you have and will continue to touch.

2nd August

I really don’t know where to start.

I suppose I’ll begin by informing you all that Mother Nature has, yet again, had the last word. Over the next ten days, there’s potentially only one, maybe two, short good weather windows of opportunity.

This has meant that our 2018 Matterhorn attempt will be shelved for this year.

From our current position, we need three, more than likely four, back to back days of good weather to safely summit the Matterhorn and return to a safe area.

This means that the weather has yet again taught us how to cope with disappointment, failure and patience. I know from last year that many will say that we haven’t failed. But you know what, we’re all big boys and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Failure is a certainty for all of those who are willing to find their ultimate limits. So, let’s call it as it is and not perceive failure as a demon.

We’re aware of how proud everyone is of us, yet at this stage it’s little consolation. After four years of preparation, training and disappointment, we’re now more confident and focused on being able to achieve this dream.

In the near future!

This has mainly been down to Miles, Mac, Jon and Ali, who’ve gone beyond the call of duty. Their planning, down to the minutest detail, has been outstanding. Miles lost his father several days before the start of the climb, but made this project a priority. Most of the guides donated their wages from last year and worked for free this year. These men haven’t only become part of this project but also brothers, wanting to ensure this goal is achieved. The rest of us would like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all their efforts to date.

That being said, we’re still at 3,800 metres, and have two full days of arduous training ahead. This is just to descend the Horn (I feel we can call her that now, as we’ve become pretty close).

The sponsors have been amazing so please show your appreciation to Scipio, RAB and Blesma (and Neptune, of course!).

Your support this year has also been huge and we thank every single one of you.

Struggling a bit now with my emotions so I’ve going to leave it there for now.

We’ll let you all know when we get down to normal altitude.

Peace out.

1st August

After the brilliant weather over the past couple of days, we woke up this morning to find the clouds had closed in. It’s too foggy to safely climb today, but with half the team (myself, Miles – our expedition leader – and John – one of our mountain guides) safely at the Carrel hut, and the other half back down at base camp, we’re happy to wait it out. We’ve given ourselves plenty of time that we don’t need to rush on (or turn back), and there’s enough rations here at the Carrel hut and fresh food down at base camp to keep us going.

The plan for tomorrow, if the weather clears up, is that I’ll climb with Miles and John to Pic Tyndall, a peak part way up the Matterhorn that’s 4,241 metres high (at the moment we’re at 3,800), where we can camp overnight. Then, we’ll be in the best place to reach the summit on Friday.

At the same time, the guys down at base camp (Mark, Steve, Mac and Ali) will set off with the rest of our rations, which they’ll keep at the Carrel hut so they can bring them up to us if we need them.

Despite the weather, our morale is high because for the first time in four years, it feels like my dream (some might say crazy nightmare) of being the first double-knee amputee to reach the summit of the Matterhorn is finally within touching distance. It’s all down to the weather now, and though we’re humble enough to know that it could stop us – like it has in the past – we can’t help feeling that this is our year.

31st July – afternoon

A quick update on yesterday’s climb – we made it to the Carrel hut!

31st July – morning

We had a great day climbing yesterday – the weather was perfect, and we made it to our first ‘bivi’ location (a safe ledge where we could camp overnight) at 3,300 metres. We’re on track with our plan, and today we’re hoping to make it to the Carrel hut (where there’s a proper bed waiting!), which is at the 3,835 metre point.

With any luck, we’ll be at the top by Thursday – only another 1,178 metres to go…

30th July

Today’s the day. A bit different to my usual Monday morning, today we’re going to start the Matterhorn climb, going up the Italian side rather than the Swiss. It’s a more difficult route but it’s got more stops for me to rest a bit before we keep on going. Wish us luck! I’ll be reporting back later today if I can.

27th July

We’ve been in Chamonix this week to start preparing and acclimatising for the climb next week. Today, I did a live interview with World Radio Switzerland to tell them about how me and the team hope to conquer the week-long climb, as well as a bit about what’s brought me back to the Matterhorn for the third time.