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In 2016, double amputee Neil Heritage, Steve Green and Mark Hooks travelled to Zermatt Switzerland for an attempt on the Matterhorn. The aim was simple, to support Neil, a double above-the-knee amputee in becoming the first person with such a disability to reach the summit. The reality was very different to the dream however and the team were forced to turn back at the half-way point.

In August this year, the team will return for a second attempt on the mountain, bringing with them all that they learned on last year’s unsuccessful expedition. “Nobody had tried this with my disability before” says Neil “and so we had no point of reference to start from”. The critical point came for the team when they failed to reach the Solvay hut in the day available to them to do so and their approach has been altered this time to reflect this. “The biggest problem was time” Steve explains “using his short prosthetics, Neil was much slower than able bodied climbers.” Fatigue also played a big part, with Neil using about seven times the energy of his teammates.

The new plan of attack will see the team approach the mountain from the Italian side. While this route is traditionally considered more technically difficult, it also offers a larger number of ledges on which the team will be able to bivi, breaking up the journey and allowing them to stay on the mountain even if they fail to reach their set height for a particular day. Tackling the Matterhorn in this fashion,  Neil, Steve and Mark expect to take 3-4 days to reach the summit and another two to climb back down. This ‘tortoise and the hare’ style approach will, they hope, give the team a far higher likelihood of success. They will be aided in their efforts by a team of four guides including Rab athlete Ally Swinton who will help to find the line of least resistance and support Neil with logistics and equipment.

It was no surprise to us at Rab when Neil decided to return to the Matterhorn, despite last year’s demanding attempt. Neil was injured while serving in Iraq in 2004, but has not allowed his injured legs to hold him back. Since becoming an amputee, he has completed triathlons, learned to scuba dive, ski and has completed a 3,000 mile row across the Atlantic as part of the Row 2 Recovery team. Challenges like the Matterhorn have played a vital role in Neil’s recovery in terms of both physical and mental rehabilitation. Speaking as a team, all three ex-servicemen say:

“We hope to push the boundaries of what’s possible with disabilities and show that there is life beyond injury”.

Climb 2 Recovery will fly out to Chamonix, France to begin their acclimatisation on the 1st of August with an intended start date for their Matterhorn ascent of August 7th. Follow their journey here.

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