Injured servicemen test kit for Everest bid

Private Jaco van Gass tries out his prosthetic ice axe for the first time
Private Jaco van Gass tries out his prosthetic ice axe for the first time
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MEMBERS of the Walking With The Wounded team have been practising some of the skills they will need to climb Mount Everest.

They tested crucial kit such as harnesses, crampons and safety clips, and it was a chance for one of the injured soldiers to try out his prosthetic ice axe for the first time.

Private Jaco van Gass, who lost his left arm in a rocket blast in Afghanistan in 2009, put his own invention through its paces, and realised it needs some minor adjustments.

“It’s good to get back on the ice,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve tested the arm. There are various bits we can change. A spike would work much better, or even just changing the angle of the axe. It’s great to start practising and getting into it.”

Four of the five injured servicemen in the team hoping to reach the 8,848m summit made the short walk from Mount Everest Base Camp to a training area two mountain guides had created.

Former UK soldier and mountaineering expert Harry Taylor, 53, and Everest legend Mark “Woody” Woodward, 48, from New Zealand, set up a 10m vertical ice climb as well as a fixed rope course.

Although the conditions will not be identical to those further up the mountain, it was an opportunity for Pte van Gass, 25, Captain David Wiseman, 29, from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, Captain Francis Atkinson, 31, and Karl Hinett, 25, to practise their skills. After tackling the wall of hard, scratchy, glacial ice, South African-born Pte van Gass, said: “We’ll be facing some stuff like this on the Hillary Step, so it’s really good.

“The guides know what they’re talking about, and I’m taking in every word they say.”

Mr Taylor, who served in the Royal Marines and the SAS, said the ice wall exercise was designed to focus on the team’s footwork.

He added: “It’s steeper than most of the stuff they’re actually going to do on the South Col route (to the Everest peak) but they will get some sections where it can be bullet-proof ice.”