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Blind veteran from East Sussex to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Mark Threadgold

Mark admits that at first, the sports staff at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton were not sure whether to take him seriously. He says: “I spoke about it with the charity’s staff at their Brighton centre, and at first they couldn’t believe it! After that we sat down and had a chat about it and they thankfully came around!”

Mark will be taking on the mountain with a company called Charity Challenge, who arranged The Big Red Nose Climb for Comic Relief in 2009. He says: “We’re going for what’s called the Lemosho route. It’s six days up and two down and an ideal option because it gives you time to properly acclimatise to the atmosphere and avoid altitude sickness.”

Having already climbed Mount Snowdon and part of Ben Nevis, 2017 is proving to be a typically busy year for Mark. He also took part in a trek of Iceland last month, something he says was ideal training for the task ahead. He explains: “The Iceland trek was amazing and actually fantastic preparation for Mount Kilimanjaro. I haven’t been camping for donkey’s years so it was great to familiarise myself with all of that again.”

The Iceland trek was arranged by the charity, The Not Forgotten Association, and funded by Help for Heroes. Mark explains that after meeting and speaking with a number of their representatives, his mind was put at ease ahead of his Mount Kilimanjaro climb. He explains: “A couple of the guys I was with have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro before, but they said that the first day of the Iceland trek was harder than anything they’d experienced before! The terrain in Iceland, particularly on the first day, was so changeable, it really was tough. I made it through though, so that’s given me a lot of confidence.”

Along with a dedicated porter from Charity Challenge, Mark will be joined by Russell Scullion, a Sport and Recreation Instructor at Blind Veterans UK. Mark, who is completely blind, maintains that the trust and communication between himself and Russell will be of paramount importance for the climb, which begins on 13 October. He explains: “The guiding aspect of things is absolutely crucial.

“To be able to have that trust and seamless communication is going to be vital and it’s something we’ve been working on hard by getting out there and getting the miles in with a big heavy bags on our backs.”

Mark’s passion for sport began in the Army and, despite losing his sight, he has continued to consistently challenge himself in a variety of sporting formats.

Chief amongst his personal achievements are three world records. The first came in 2002 when he became the world’s fastest blind circumnavigator of the Isle of Wight in a rigid inflatable boat, travelling 57.74 nautical miles in just 1 hour and 50 minutes. In 2003, Mark set the Water Speed World Record in the Ultimate Blind Class when he drove a blade runner offshore racing powerboat across Windermere, reaching 99.19 mph. Later, in 2006, Mark set the record for the deepest scuba dive and closed-circuit rebreather dive by a blind person after diving 103 metres in the Red Sea.

Mark continues: “What’s also a massive help is the walking poles we’ve been supplied with. They’re absolutely essential. I actually managed to break mine the other day, though to be fair I’m not sure leaning 13 stone onto it was the best idea!”

Mark, who served in the Royal Corps of Signals from 1984 to 2001, started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 1999. He says: “It’s been an enormous help. The main thing has been independent living, whether that’s through computer or cooking equipment, they’ve really given me the confidence to go out there and continue doing what I was doing, and of course try many, many new things.

“’Put up and shut up’ is something I’ve gotten used to being told and it’s worked out pretty well so far! Next stop, Tanzania!”

To support Mark as he prepares to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, please visit: justgiving.com /mark-threadgold.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning WWII to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan. They have set the ambitious target to double the number of veterans receiving its life changing support to over 8,000 by 2022.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/support to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.

For all media enquiries please contact: Felix Arbenz-Caines, PR Assistant, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD, E: Felix.Arbenz-Caines@blindveterans.org.uk, T: 020 7616 7941

Notes to Editor

Blind Veterans UK

Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.

Find out more at: blindveterans.org.uk, follow us on Facebook at: facebook.com/blindveteransuk and on Twitter at: twitter.com/blindveterans.

Our Executive Members

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