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Walking With The Wounded: Injured Ex-Servicemen Prepare For Mount Everest Climb (Pictures)

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WALKING WITH THE WOUNDED
Walking with the wounded team are to spend the next seven weeks living in tents | PA

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

However the five injured soldiers have vowed not to let the primitive lifestyle faze them as they continue in their bid to conquer Mount Everest, says 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, Private Jaco van Gass, 25, and former Private Karl Hinett, 25, all sustained their life-changing injuries fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Captain Martin Hewit climbs out of Khumjung on the way to summit Everest in Nepal.

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.

Hundreds of yaks file through the main thoroughfare each day, hauling supplies up and down the trekking route.

On Saturday 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, including the UK, Europe, the US, Canada and Nepal.

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.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mr Chaplin, had not considered climbing Mount Everest before he offered to mentor this team.

He said: "I've never had an Everest ambition. Quite a lot of climbers are like that.

"Everest tends to attract quite a lot of ego-warriors who don't necessarily have the kind of climbing ethic as someone who has been climbing for a long time.

"I'm used to having to look after my mate, and my mate looking after me.

"Everest climbing tends to attract a type of person who's very much in it for the ends, rather than the means."

Mr Chaplin was born in Cumbria and now lives in Edinburgh.

He is married to Christina, 44, and they have three children George, 13, Magnus, 12 and Amelie, 9.

His family is with him for the trek to base camp, but Mr Chaplin will stay with the team for the whole expedition.

Mr Hewitt, from Widnes in Cheshire, Captain Wiseman from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, Captain Atkinson, from Swindon in Wiltshire, Private van Gass from Middleburg in South Africa, and Karl Hinett from Tipton in the West Midlands will attempt to reach the 8,848m Mount Everest summit next month.

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