Recovering from injuries – both physical and mental – is a tough challenge for servicemen and women, especially if that means building a new life outside the military.
65 Degrees North (65DN) believes adventure can play a vital role in rehabilitation by forging bonds through shared adversity and attaining new skills. By promoting the spirit of adventure to overcome disability, the organisation aims to inspire and motivate others to succeed.
65DN has the support of the Endeavour Fund set up by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Its latest adventure saw 65DN tackling Everest, at 29,029 ft (8,848m) above sea level the highest mountain in the world. The team followed the Southeast Ridge route on the Nepalese side of the mountain, with four climbers making it to the ‘top of the world’ in May 2019.
Team Everest pushed themselves to the limit, physically and mentally, to conquer the fifth of seven summits 65DN has its sights, with one climber suffering frostbite to his feet which saw him airlifted off the mountain during the descent. The expedition raised funds for The Royal Marines Charity.
The team carried essential safety and communications equipment supplied by Inmarsat: a rugged IsatPhone 2 satellite phone; an IsatHub iSavi terminal to use with their own smart devices; an ultra-portable Explorer 510 BGAN terminal; and an Explorer 710 BGAN for the fastest on-demand video streaming.
With always-on connectivity they were able to check in with the support and medical team, gain peace of mind and comfort through the ability to contact loved ones, update progress in real-time and share the journey with the world through social media and interviews. Being able to read messages of support also provided a morale boost when times got tough.
Expedition leader Richard Morgan is a former Royal Marine Commando who is trained in both desert and cold weather combat and survival. He saw for himself how taking on an extreme challenge can aid rehabilitation when he helped former soldier Peter Bowker achieve his ambition to become the world’s first amputee to cross the Greenland ice cap unsupported. In 2018 Rich was awarded an MBE for his charitable services to veterans.
Brendan Davies joined the Royal Marines at the age of 19. He served at 40 Commando where he was deployed on operational duties in Northern Ireland and the Adriatic before suffering serious spinal injuries. Following his discharge he suffered with periods of depression and anxiety, having left a job he loved. Brendan successfully summited Mt Aconcagua in Argentina and Mt Denali in Alaska with 65DN in 2018.
Scott Ransley joined the Royal Marines in 2008, going on to 42 Commando. He was left blind in one eye following an IED blast and was medically discharged in 2013. In 2015 Scott successfully completed the 1,000 mile Walk of Britain with Walking With The Wounded (WWTW). He successfully summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2016 and Mt Denali in 2018.
Joe Winch was commissioned into the Royal Marines in 2002, and was diagnosed with acute Complex PTSD in 2017 – a consequence of the many traumas he experienced during his service. Currently, Joe is under the care of the Royal Navy’s Recovery Centre Hasler, and together with the incredible support of his wife and three children, he has begun taking back control of his life, including by participating in the Denali expedition – read about his experience here.
Tom Heal joined the Royal Marines as an officer in 2012 and has served at three of its Commando Units. Specialising as a mountain leader, he has deployed in many roles, including to Norway’s Arctic Circle. With a friend he set a world record in 2010 as the youngest pair ever to row an ocean, crossing the Atlantic in 80 days. With 65DN, Tom successfully reached the summit of Mt. Vinson in 2017.
Leesa Harrison is 65DN’s media officer, and has joined training sessions on the Mont Blanc Massif in preparation for Antarctica, Aconcagua, Denali and Everest challenges. She experienced her first expedition when she took part in ‘Conquering Kili’ in 2016, and for Expedition Everest supported the summit team from Base Camp.