A former soldier who lost both legs in Iraq has become the first above-the-knee double amputee to climb the Matterhorn – on his third attempt.
Neil Heritage, 39, reached the peak of the 14,692ft summit in the Alps – one of the world’s most dangerous in the world.
He was injured by a suicide bomber while on tour in Iraq in 2004 and was told he would never walk again.
But the former corporal, from Poole, Dorset, made it up the near-vertical mountainside in three days, reaching the peak at lunchtime on Friday (August 7).
He attempted the climb in 2016 and 2018 but had to make the difficult decision to turn back due to terrible weather.
In 2017, Neil and his team had to abandon their attempt as 2m of snow halted any possibility of a safe climb even starting.
Speaking to the BBC from a camp on his descent, he said: “It was a challenge – it’s been a dream of mine for a long time.
“It’s something we’ve had a few goes at.”
The ex-serviceman was working with a bomb disposal team in Iraq when a suicide bomber drove close to his unit, and detonated.
Neil suffered extensive injuries and both his legs were amputated, and after a lengthy rehabilitation, he now walks on prosthetic limbs.
He said it was a “last minute” decision to attempt the climb this year, because of Covid-19, and they only started planning a month ago.
Speaking before the challenge, he said: “I’m feeling good about this year’s attempt.”
He started his final climb at 5am today on Friday, reached the summit at noon, and is now on his way back down.
His 15-strong climbing team includes six wounded, injured or sick veterans who are part of Climb 2 Recovery – the charity Neil founded.
It is estimated he uses around seven times the energy of an able-bodied climber.
One of his support team Mac Mackay, a member of the British Mountain Guides, said Neil was inspirational.
He said: “He has had attempts before but the reason he didn’t succeed wasn’t anything to do with his climbing.
“We ran out of good weather, and had to return.
“This year, we have had the most stable six or seven days that the Alps has had for quite a long time. It worked out perfectly.
“It takes him a lot longer to climb the mountain than another person.
“Every time he climbs he is putting his prosthetics through great stress.
“He’s such a positive person. He copes with everything.”
Four other clients from Neil’s charity are also climbing the mountain at the moment.
“Neil is the real motivation for all of them,” said Mac.
“He’s adored by all the other veterans, without question of a doubt.”
Prior to the Matterhorn climb, Neil has completed triathlons, learned to scuba dive and ski and also completed a 3000-mile row across the Atlantic.
To sponsor Neil, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/climb-2-recovery