A few weeks ago, Senior Patron Major General Andy Keeling approached the team with a request to carry a flag with them on their journey to summit the ‘Roof of the Americas’: Mt Aconcagua.
This was not just a flag… this was a flag with a story and a reason which moved the team and filled them with a huge sense of pride and honour.
This is a flag which will undoubtedly motivate the team and drive them on through the tough times on the mountain…
It will be the second time this particular flag has travelled from the UK to Aconcagua.
The first time it was proudly held on the summit by a young man called Simon Brooke.
From an early age, Simon was a competitive sportsman who particularly excelled in swimming, athletics and rowing. He led an action-packed life but there was always an underlying sense of good humour.
He was generous to a fault, a natural leader and had many male and female friends who all knew they could depend on him, come what may.
Simon had very much wanted to follow his father into the Royal Marines but it wasn’t to be, and after completing his degree he carved out a career in advertising.
The Millennium was approaching, and wanting to celebrate it in style, Simon and 3 of his friends decided to climb one of the Seven Summits: Mt Aconcagua.
Realising that some endurance training was needed first they tackled the 3 highest peaks in the UK: Ben Nevis, Snowdon & Scafell Pike, then in January 2000 the 4-man team were heading to Santiago to begin final preparations.
Their training paid off as they tackled the foothills but Simon soon felt the effects of altitude sickness as they progressed. He managed to shake it off but unfortunately 2 of his friends began to suffer badly and a decision was made by the Expedition Leader that they should ‘go firm’ where they were.
Mt Aconcagua, known to the locals as ‘Death Mountain’ is renowned for its strong surface wind, intense gusts and extreme changing conditions but with a lucky break in the weather, the team leader offered Simon the chance to summit with him. He jumped at the opportunity and they made it, along with the flag!
The team later regrouped and all 4 made it safely back down the mountain to celebrate their adventure with a well-earned beer!
Simon’s love of the mountains saw him giving up his career in advertising and he decided to enrol on the Level 3 British Association of Snow Sport Instructors (BASI) course.
He quite literally rocketed up the system reaching BASI 1 in just three years which was a rare achievement and almost unheard of.
In 2003 he returned home from Summer Training on the Tignes Glacier for his French Speed Test, which he needed in order to teach with the Ecole de Ski Francais.
Simon was just 1.7 seconds short of this gruelling ‘holy grail’ and was determined to nail it the following year…
..but he never got the chance.
Tragically, in August 2003 aged just 29, Simon was killed in a car crash.
Since Simon’s death his Mum, Dad and brother James have put their efforts into fundraising in Simon’s memory. They have undertaken a variety of challenges ranging from the London Marathon in 2004 to a double Atlantic crossing in 2005/6 and Round Britain sail in 2008.
The request for the team to take Simon’s flag with them followed a conversation about 65 Degrees North’s expedition with their family friend Andy Keeling.
Simon’s father Mike Brooke met the team at Heathrow airport and presented them with the flag … it is now heading towards Argentina!
We hope that you will continue to #FollowTheFlag on its journey and support the team as they set out to summit Mt Aconcagua.