Primitive life will not face Everest team, says mentor

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The Walking With The Wounded team rested yesterday as they prepared to spend the next seven weeks living in tents.

But the primitive lifestyle will not faze the five injured soldiers hoping to conquer Mount Everest, according to their expedition mentor.

Experienced mountaineer and charity representative Henry Chaplin said: “They are all completely used to sleeping in tents and sorting out their personal admin – it’s completely second nature for them. They will never fail on that front. On a tour of Afghanistan you are living in pretty rough conditions.

“They are totally used to this kind of daily routine.”

Former Captain Martin Hewitt, 31, Captain Francis Atkinson, 31, Captain David Wiseman, 29, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, Private Jaco van Gass, 25, and former Private Karl Hinett, 25, all sustained their life-changing injuries fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Chaplin, a former officer in the Royal Green Jackets (RGJ), said the team’s cohesion comes from their shared experiences.

“You won’t find on Everest, ever, a group who will work so well as this team,” said the 49-year-old.

“That’s partly because of the Army, and partly the fact that they are an injured group. There’s an incredibly strong bond, and a will to look after each other.”

An overnight dump of snow outside their lodge at Pheriche (4,240m) put an end to any ambitions of a morning stroll, so the team spent the day reading, playing backgammon, washing clothes and conserving their energy before a punishing two months.

Pheriche is one of the gateway villages to the upper Khumbu Valley, and is home to a charity medical clinic called the Himalayan Rescue Association.

There is also a poignant memorial to all those who have died on Mount Everest.

Today, the Walking With The Wounded team will gain nearly 700m in altitude as they push on to Lobuche Base Camp (4,910m) on the eighth day of their 10-day hike to base camp.

Mr Chaplin became involved with the charity, which helps injured servicemen and women readjust to life after the armed forces, because he is friends with the co-founder Ed Parker after the pair both served in the RGJ.

Former Captain Chaplin joined the Army in 1983 and left in 1989 after serving in Northern Ireland.

He said Mr Parker had been looking for someone to look after the soldiers on the Everest expedition, as he did for the successful North Pole trip last year.

Mr Chaplin remembers saying: “Well, I could do it.”

The father of three has climbed all over the world. In the autumn of 1989 he was the second person ever – and the first Briton – to climb Chureng Himal, a 7,371m peak in western Nepal.

The Walking With The Wounded team will attempt to reach the 8,848m Mount Everest summit next month.

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