Wounded British soldiers on charity Everest climb

Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:17am EDT
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Five wounded current and former British Army soldiers, including one who lost an arm, depart on Saturday for the base camp of Mount Everest to try to climb the world's tallest peak for charity.

The soldiers are part of a 30-climber British expedition to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit. They will take the normal South East Ridge route pioneered by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.

The expedition is sponsored by Walking with the Wounded, a charity that raises funds to train and educate wounded soldiers and help them return to work once they leave the military. Britain's Prince Harry is a patron of the charity.

"I am so excited, very excited and a little bit nervous," said Martin Hewitt, 31, who trekked to the North Pole with the charity in 2011 and is a former captain who has a paralyzed right arm after being shot in Afghanistan in 2007.

The team climbed Mount Manaslu, the world's eighth tallest peak at 8,163 meters (26,781 feet) in western Nepal last year as part of their training.

"It is teamwork," said David Wiseman, a 29-year-old captain shot in the chest during a battle with the Taliban in 2009. "If one guy finds a particular thing like using the crampons difficult, the others can help him."

The others taking part are private Jaco van Gass, 25, who lost an arm in a grenade attack in Afghanistan, ex-private Karl Hinett, 25, who sustained burns to his legs, hands and face in Iraq, and Captain Francis Atkinson, 31, whose right arm no longer functions properly after a gunshot wound in Afghanistan.

Everest climbing season started in March and continues through May. Climbers wait in tents for a window of good weather to make the summit bid before the onset of annual monsoon rains.   Continued...