DOG WAR­DEN WHO LEADS EX­CIT­ING LIFE

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - Ian Lewis @IanLewis80 [email protected]­line.co.uk 07790 591150

BY day Bren­dan Lee Davies works as a county coun­cil dog war­den, but his spare time has seen him tackle some of the world’s most challengin­g and tallest peaks – not least the high­est, Ever­est.

The for­mer Royal Ma­rine is now back home in Hendy, en­joy­ing “putting back on the pounds” af­ter los­ing weight while scaling Ever­est in Nepal as part of a fundrais­ing ef­fort.

Bren­dan lost more than two stone dur­ing the ex­pe­di­tion, which he did to raise money for the Royal Marines Char­ity.

The char­ity helps vet­er­ans, cadets and their fam­i­lies, along with fam­i­lies who have lost loved ones in ser­vice.

Bren­dan, 45, is orig­i­nally from Pon­ty­berem in the Gwen­draeth Val­ley and has al­ways been a keen walker and climber, but Ever­est, he said, has been the most challengin­g feat.

Ex­plain­ing how to got in­volved in tack­ling the 29,029ft moun­tain, he said: “I served with an­other ma­rine commando named Richard Morgan back in 1994 and years later we bumped into each other and he had set up a firm called 65 De­grees North and it was some­thing I wanted to get on­board with.”

The firm, which is now tak­ing steps to be­come a reg­is­tered char­ity, seeks to help in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of wounded, in­jured or sick cur­rent or ex-ser­vice­men and women by of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in challengin­g ad­ven­ture.

In 2013, Richard led the HeroesChal­lengeUK (HCUK), a UK en­durance record that set a Bri­tish first.

Want­ing to give some­thing back to the wounded, in­jured and sick ser­vice­men and women, the HCUK team cy­cled from John O’Groats to Lands End, climb­ing the high­est peaks in Wales, Eng­land and Scot­land along the way.

Put simply Richard and those who join his ex­pe­di­tions have not looked back since.

Bren­dan, who served from 1993 to 1998 in the Royal Marines said: “I had two tours of duty as a ma­rine, North­ern Ire­land and in the Adri­atic Sea.

“Since I came out of the marines 21 years ago, I have had my strug­gles with men­tal health and PTSD (post trau­matic stress dis­or­der).

“So when I heard about 65 De­grees North, I was asked if I wanted to join one of the ex­pe­di­tions to South Amer­ica to climb Aconcagua.

“That was Jan­uary last year and it’s about 1,000 me­tres lower than Ever­est and it was tough, more tech­ni­cal than Ever­est, which at the time I hadn’t even con­tem­plated climb­ing.”

With money be­ing fundraised by 65 De­grees North dur­ing the Aconcagua climb and also six other peaks across the globe - which Bren­dan did not take part in, at­ten­tion then turned to scaling Ever­est.

“What Richie wanted to do was to take a hand­picked group of climbers who had been on other ex­pe­di­tions and do Ever­est.” Set­ting off on the trip were five mem­bers and they spent 40 days at base camp be­low the im­pos­ing moun­tain to just get used to the high al­ti­tude.

Base camp it­self sits at 17,600 ft on the south side of Ever­est.

Bren­dan said: “Ever­est is tech­ni­cally not dif­fi­cult, if you com­pare it to K2, the world’s sec­ond high­est moun­tain.

“That is more tricky but it’s the height of Ever­est and the lack of oxy­gen as you as­cend up to­wards the peak that hits you.”

How­ever, be­fore even reach­ing the higher sec­tions of Ever­est, ev­ery climber must first face the ice wall, which Bren­dan said was one of the most fright­en­ing ob­sta­cles he has ever come up against.

“It’s the first thing you come to when leav­ing base camp and it’s im­me­di­ately one of the most dan­ger­ous parts of the climb.

“You are on lad­ders and walk­ways sur­rounded by these huge ice­blocks, some as big as houses, that’s the scale of them.”

Most would think, okay get over the ice wall and then con­tinue with the climb, but that’s not how you climb Ever­est, as Bren­dan ex­plained:

“You do sev­eral climbs to dif­fer­ent camps and heights on the moun­tain, this is all part of the prepa­ra­tion and you only have a cer­tain win­dow to pre­pare and also to do the whole climb to the peak be­cause of the weather pat­terns.”

It was af­ter reach­ing the sum­mit on the re­turn jour­ney that the ice wall proved to be at its most treach­er­ous for Bren­dan and fel­low climbers.

“I sum­mit­ted at around 5.30am hav­ing started in the mid­dle of the night from camp four, the high­est and last camp be­fore the ‘Death Zone’.

“So com­ing down I knew we were hit­ting the ice wall in day time, which is not the best be­cause the ice warms up, moves around, these huge blocks are shift­ing with you roped up on them.”

Turn­ing to reach­ing the peak, Bren­dan said it was a fan­tas­tic achieve­ment but com­pletely drain­ing on the body.

“You have to be fit and have ex­pe­ri­ence of mountainee­ring, even so it’s some­thing to ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing that high, on top of the world, with­out oxy­gen tanks you can’t do it.

“So while tech­ni­cally it’s not hard there is a lot to think of at that al­ti­tude: is your oxy­gen work­ing, are your cram­pons on your feet okay?”

Un­furl­ing the Welsh flag at the sum­mit was a poignant mo­ment for Bren­dan, he had done it, he was on top of the world’s high­est moun­tain, while helping to raise money for the Royal Marines Char­ity.

Speak­ing of the fundrais­ing ef­fort, it was back home in Wales that many ral­lied around at Pon­tard­du­lais Rugby Club for a fundrais­ing evening a few months ago, which raised around £5,000 for the char­ity.

“That was a great achieve­ment,” said Bren­dan, who was sur­prised with a call from the club while at Ever­est base camp to say he had won the club’s Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment of the Year Award.

Pic­ture: Bren­dan Lee Davies

Bren­dan Lee Davies proudly un­furl­ing the Welsh flag at the top of Ever­est.

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