In September 2019 a team of wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans gathered together in Cornwall for an incredible week of rock climbing, led by 65 Degrees North’s High Mountain Advisor, John Barry.
For many it was their first rock climbing experience, and for others it was an opportunity to rediscover the joy of adventure and being part of a team again.
We would like to thank everyone who gave their time and expertise to make this such a successful experience.
Below is a summary of the week written by John Barry:
“The Aim was to climb rock. As much rock as mind, muscle and inclination allowed in 6 days.
We based ourselves – thirteen of us – at Penver Cottage, a Royal Marine training base, in St Just, West Penwith, Cornwall. This is a region blessed with dozens of immaculate cliffs of rough and inviting granite that come in all shapes, sizes and angles. Most overlook the Atlantic Ocean; many rise from it.
Each day over breakfast we would check the weather; check too the tides (some of our intended venues were tide-affected and readily accessible only at a lowish water); discuss venues, team composition, aspirations, preferences; then alight on some kind of consensus, grab kit – ropes, rock shoes, racks, helmets and all the paraphernalia of the rock game, jump into any of a convoy of vehicles and head to that day’s selected cliffs. And to a new adventure. A frisson of anticipation was ever alive in the air, the excitement practically palpable and, by both volume and by syllable, measurable.
We did this for 6 days and to 8 different venues. I have lost count of the number and names of the routes we scaled but reckon that all told we climbed between us a total in excess of twenty thousand feet of rock, much of it vertical, all of it steep, little of it ever less than a test of mind and muscle and none of it other than glorious, airy, life-affirming, sun-kissed fun.
In all this we were daily awarded by the gods-of-weather nothing but cloudless azure skies, nothing other than flat cobalt seas. Nor did the tide fail to co-operate. Canute would have been envious for Neptune too was on-board: we were tide-untroubled the week long.
And there was more…
On day three we hit Commando Ridge at Bosigran en masse – the thirteen of us plus Rich Morgan (65 Degrees North CEO) and Leesa Harrison our miracle-performing secretary. This is a route that begins at the sea – literally – and runs toward the sky in a ridge of 700 feet of super-abrasive granite. It was a war-time training ground for the Commandos of the Cliff Assault Wing. To tread here is to tread on hallowed ground. We trod on hallowed ground. Below us, all day long, was the sun-dappled sea, asplash with curious, eyeballing seals. Above us that azure sky; amid us laughter, banter, excitement, sheer unalloyed pleasure; and between us 16 happy men and one happy lady, all high on adventure.
If I can be allowed a personal comment: I have climbed all over the world and in every continent; I have been involved in new routes in 5 of those continents and have been fortunate enough to have climbed with some of the best mountaineers around and on some of the biggest and best mountains. I have been lucky. But never luckier or happier, more content or fulfilled, than on this day on Commando Ridge with this gang of WIS. Never.
Another interesting feature of the week was that we had PTSD sufferers leading teams of similarly afflicted comrades all generating a collective welter of badinage and hale and healing.
The week concluded on the harbour wall at Sennen Cove with a vast fish and chip supper, the appetite for which all but equalled our earlier appetite for adventure. We munched and reminisced, reminisced and munched and told and retold. .And the climbs grew in length, difficulty, steepness an stature with every telling, while the sun sank into the Atlantic – an ocean only marginally wider than the smiles that radiated from our team
The aim had been to climb. That aim was achieved. But we did more. Expectations were exceeded; dreams realised; hopes surpassed. And, I trust, some enduring good was done.
To be part of such a team in such an endeavor for such a week was all of a privilege and a duty; a pleasure and an honour.”