The Battle Back Centre
Expedition team successfully reaches Himalayas’ summit on Armistice Day
An expedition team of injured, wounded and sick military personnel and veterans, led by Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie Great Outdoors, has successfully reached the summit of Mera Peak in the Himalayas.
The team, working alongside the Royal British Legion, reached the summit at around 2.50am UK time today (11 November).
Dave Bunting, Outdoor Development Manager for Carnegie Great Outdoors, is the Overall Expedition Leader. He said: “The last 48 hours has been a mixture of intense stress and one of the most rewarding projects I have ever done in the mountains. Aiming to place a group of serving and veteran soldiers, who are also novice mountaineers, on top of a Himalayan Peak on the Centenary of the end of WW1 brought with it a variety of challenges but witnessing it first hand in this inspirational environment made it all worthwhile. The ascent was very challenging physically and mentally but to watch this newly developed team of people overcome the challenges together and support each other in the most extreme and alien of situations was simply superb and will stick with me forever.”
Veteran Lyndon Chatting-Walters said: “Today has been the summit of not only Mera Peak but many months of hard training and organisation. It has been a difficult but humbling two weeks of trekking and acclimatising, and with the support and friendships made within the team it all became possible. It was a truly incredible experience to honour the centenary of the First World War standing on top of a hard earned mountain with fellow veterans.”
Christopher Joynson, Operations Manager at The Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Centre, and expedition leader for the Royal British Legion, said: “The summiting of Mera Peak is the culmination of 18 months planning between the Royal British Legion and Leeds Beckett University. That it occurred on Remembrance Sunday could not have been more significant. The team have done really well as many had no previous climbing experience and have now climbed a major Himalayan Peak.”
Many of those who took part in the expedition have received support from the Legion’s Battle Back Centre, a leading centre for the recovery and physical and mental wellbeing of both serving wounded, injured and sick and veterans. The Centre provides tailored programmes, designed and run by Carnegie Great Outdoors, which use sport and adventurous activities to help with both physical and psychological challenges.
Expedition leader Dave Bunting on the last day of expedition
Lyndon Chatting-Walters and Lee Hardy talking about their experience of reaching the summit
The expedition team heading down after reaching the summit of Mera Peak
The expedition at the summit of Mera Peak
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Entry 4 - Expedition Leader Dave Bunting from Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie Great Outdoors
5 November 2018
Just over a week ago we hit the trail out of Lukla and in that time we have journeyed through some incredible landscapes, from busy villages to isolated settlements, from hot sweaty trails to exposed mountain paths, all have added to a spectacular expedition so far. It’s hard to believe we started this trek only 7 days ago, so much has happened already it feels like we have been away so much longer and with outstanding views around every corner there is never a dull moment. We are now in Kothey village at 3600m and a rest day is needed as there is some sickness within a small number of the group, nothing too serious but a break to recuperate has helped.
Tomorrow we will head for Tangnag at 4300m ascending steadily up a superb Himalayan valley with views of the spectacular Kyashar. From an altitude perspective we expect this day to be comfortable having already been over 4400m but we also know the temperatures will be lower so will need to be prepared. This will place us only 1 day out of Khare Camp where we will base ourselves to begin our preparation for climbing Mera.
Entry 3 - Nick Arding, Deputy Leader, Mission Himalaya
3 November 2018
There are some days when Nature makes me feel small - today was one of those. As we left our ‘crows nest’ campsite on the mountain col at Chalem Kharka at 3600 meters we were surrounded by a sea of cloud, its tentacles holding us in their grip as we struggled to settle our breathing heading up the steep mountainside.
There are many myths associated with the way in which the human body copes with operating at high altitude but one thing is certain - ‘acclimatisation’ as it is grandly known, is unspeakably horrible: feeling as if you have a constant hangover, a headache alternating between nagging and insistent (at which point paracetamol comes to the rescue) and broken sleep as you regularly wake to catch your breath, feeling as if you’ve just tried to swim a width underwater. Most people acclimatise over time; all suffer whilst they do so.
Today we were going to reach our highest point yet, a col at 4400m above the lakes at Panch Pokhara and our breathing was laboured heading up through the hillside of rhododendron and sweetly scented juniper bushes. As we gained height the surroundings started to make me feel small as we entered a world of soaring rock towers and gullys, whose precipitous sides fell away into the mist below. I am no stranger to impressive mountain scenery and today was as good as I have ever enjoyed.
The team were brilliant, maintaining a steady pace as we slowly passed the 4000m mark and on to the col, a deep notch surrounded by bottomless depths on either side, the cloud swirling around blown on the icy wind. There were white fingers of hoar frost on the rocks and after a couple of minutes for photos we were heading down the twisting path into a bank of swirling cloud.
The contrast in our surroundings on reaching the beautiful lakes below could not have been greater, their emerald surface barely broken by the gentle wind and a watery sun lending almost a semblance of warmth as we peeled off layers of down jackets and fleeces. 40 minutes later saw us at our next camp at Khola Kharka, a deep mountain ‘cwm’ surrounded by forbidding rock walls, our tents ready thanks to our amazing Sherpa team who also produced soup around a roaring wood burner in the tiny Sherpa building that reminded me strongly of a Scottish bothy.
Entry 2 - Expedition Leader Dave Bunting from Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie Great Outdoors
2 November 2018
We have now completed 4 days of quite tough trekking and we are at Chalem Kharka 3600m. It’s been a significant experience already. Kathmandu was enjoyable but very busy with many tasks to complete from overcoming a long flight to meeting our supporting agency Himalayan Ecstasy to purchasing last minute items to repacking bags for the onward journey. Everyone was great and got stuck into their jobs but their was certainly an air of apprehension for what lay ahead.
We woke at 4am on Monday 29th to great weather. Everybody was excited and ready to go on time. We were transported to the domestic airport and out on the first flight for Lukla. The airport was much more organised than some in the team have experienced in the past so we went through smoothly and soon we could see fantastic scenery and some of the big peaks. There were a few sharp intakes of breath as we skimmed very close to a number of ridges and skirted through saddles. Those on the left side of the plane were fortunate enough to get a glance of Everest and soon after somebody spotted the tiny airstrip in the distance. Following a number of expletives we landed at Lukla. After a couple of hours of reorganising equipment and eating we hit the trail.
The first day on the trail (Lukla - Paiya) was tougher than expected with significant distance and undulation which stretched the legs and we were just able to arrive at the campsite before dark with just enough daylight to prepare for the following day. The evening meal was in a small tea house and enjoyed by all. Lee and Laura entertained the team with a few tunes on the guitar before retiring for a well earned sleep.
Day two (Paiya - Panggom) was another tough day, undulating terrain skirting around hillsides and in and out of small valleys with great views to our right. It was very warm and team members needed to ensure they were well hydrated. We arrived in Panggom and set up our tents on terraces near a tea house. The trail was quiet compared to many other trails in Nepal but there were 3 other trekking teams we would see in the evenings.
Day three (Panggom - Najing Dingma) was a fabulous day and although very tough was a milestone day for the team who were settling in to the routine of the trail and adjusting to the physical effort and altitude. This day involved a steady ascent to a Col before starting a huge 1000m descent into a river valley. On route we got our first views of Mera Peak in the distance. Crossing the bridge was breath taking and testing for those with vertigo. From the river bed we ascended briefly to the lunch spot. After a filling lunch and heavy bellies the climb to our next camp was steep and took 1 1/2 hours but was magnificent with all team members arriving with tired legs but good morale. The views from this camp were spectacular and our destination for the next day could be seen in the distance. Lee and Laura entertained a full Tea House accompanied on the maracas by 2 Sherpa’s each with 14 Everest summits between them!
Day four (Najing Dingma - Chalem Kurka) was voted by everyone as the best day yet. Although it was a 1000m ascent the terrain and scenery were outstanding with changing landscapes around every corner. The team were settling into the routine and what was expected of a trekking day and anxieties were dispersing leaving morale high.
Day five - rest day. After four stiff trekking days a rest day was well deserved and needed to rest legs, wash clothes and reorganise logistics. Sat phones, sat hubs, the drone and cameras all needed charging and everyone needed some chill time to recharge the batteries. The rest day allowed for a comprehensive leadership team meeting to plan out the next few days and the team were briefed as to what to expect in the coming 2 days. Some of the team members stretched their legs for an hour above camp and others just rested. All good prep for our climb up to 4200m tomorrow where we will stay for the night.
Entry 1 - Expedition Leader Dave Bunting from Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie Great Outdoors
After many months of preparing the adventure is underway. Mission Himalaya 2018 is a joint expedition delivered by Leeds Beckett University and The Royal British Legion involving 20 team members undertaking a 4 week expedition amongst the highest mountains on earth. The team is made up of serving and veteran service personnel who are facing a variety of challenges in life and are either wounded, injured or long term sick. This group of deserving participants are being led by a team of highly experienced mountaineers who will educate and guide the team on their journey through some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. The route the team will take passes through a mix of classic Nepalese villages to remote mountain passes and finishes its circumnavigation by joining the Everest Base Camp trail for the last few days. The pinnacle of the expedition will be to summit the 6476m Mera Peak where views of the close by Everest and other neighbouring 8000m peaks will create some fantastic memories of the adventure. Those mountaineering achievements aren’t the only memories that will be taken away from this expedition. Remembrance Day, Sunday 11th Nov 2018, is the Centenary to the day when the First World War ended and this team aim to stand on their summit on that very day and remember those who have fought in wars around the world and the fallen. For some it will be memories of family members and for others it will be comrades that were lost in recent conflicts. For everyone it will be about paying respect to those who have served their country.