May 8 2012
Prince Harry has paid tribute to a team of injured servicemen whose attempt to climb Mount Everest has been abandoned because of safety concerns.
The five current and former soldiers taking part in the Walking With The Wounded challenge will leave the Himalayas later this week. A charity spokesman said the mountain was "a death trap" and the already difficult task of climbing 8,848m (29,028ft) above sea level to the summit had been made "almost impossible".
Expedition patron Prince Harry, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington where he was given a humanitarian award, said: "Last year, I struggled to keep up with the four British soldiers whom I joined for part of their expedition to walk to the North Pole. Each of these men had recently been gravely wounded on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Theirs was the fastest team to reach the Pole that season.
"At this very moment, another team of our wounded are returning from Mount Everest. Sadly, I have to be the first to say they have been frustrated from reaching the summit by the unusually warm weather, which brings particularly dangerous conditions. However, the mere fact that they are up there on that fearsome peak, I find totally amazing."
Russell Brice, the expedition leader who has led groups up Everest over the past 25 years, said: "I've never seen conditions like this before - the mountain is in a very critical condition indeed."
The team arrived in Nepal at the end of March and planned to reach the summit of Everest by the end of this month.
Walking With The Wounded co-founder Edward Parker said: "The decision not to aim for the summit was not an easy one, but it is the right decision to be made. The team are very low as they have worked so hard over the last nine months to achieve the target, but they do understand why we have made this decision and they were involved in the process."
He said the main issue was unseasonal dry and warm conditions, meaning there is not enough snow on the mountain and as a result, rocks have been loosening and falling. There has also been an increase in the number of avalanches.
The team has been led by Martin Hewett, 31, from Widnes in Cheshire, a former captain in the Parachute Regiment, who was shot twice through his right shoulder in Afghanistan in 2007, which paralysed his arm. The rest of the team is made up of Captain Francis Atkinson, Captain David Wiseman, Private Jaco van Gass and former private Karl Hinett.
Walking With The Wounded raises money to help other injured servicemen and women readjust to civilian life after they leave the armed forces.