Afghan vet Andy Reid becomes first triple amputee to conquer Kilimanjaro – and says we all have our mountains to climb
1 year ago
By Janet Tansley
Afghanistan veteran Andy Reid became the first triple amputee to climb Kilimanjaro, raising £100,000 for his Standing Tall Foundation and marking the 13th anniversary of the explosion which changed his life.
The 45-year-old made it to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain after a tough climb which he admitted had tested him physically and mentally.
But, after returning home yesterday, he said he always believed he would do it.
“I had done it before so I knew what to expect in some ways,” he says, “but there were testing moments. It was tough. But I never doubted myself, I never doubted that I would do it.”
Physically it was a challenge. Andy lost both legs and his right arm when he stood on a booby trap bomb in Helmond Province in October 2009 while serving for the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.
But Andy says: “You just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going each day. I had a strong team around me and who supported me on my journey.”
It was the mental battle that proved the most difficult one to beat.
Andy admits: “It’s a long day to keep your mind focused on what you have to do.
“And as it got closer to the anniversary of being injured – I got to the summit the day before, October 12 – there was added pressure and my mind drifted off to other places during the long 12-hour days.
“Mentally, it was much tougher and while I had to keep my mind focused on what we had to do, I was missing my wife, Claire, and the kids back home, and I was thinking about lost comrades.
“Normally around that time I have messages from friends that they are thinking about me, and I am surrounded by people. Although up Kilimanjaro I was with people, in many ways I also felt alone.
“It was emotional.”
Andy first climbed Kilimanjaro in 1999 as a young, fit, healthy soldier, while he was serving in Northern Ireland.
He made it in five days, carrying his own food and tent.
This time around, he conquered the 19,341ft Tanzanian mountain in 14 days, with a team around him, including his consultant surgeon Fergus Jepson, a physio, and Vicki, the prosthetist who has helped the father-of-two in his recovery since 2014.
The conditions made it tougher, and Andy said: “Most people do it in seven days so living in a tent for 14 days made it a lot harder, sleeping on a mat on the floor and the dust getting into you. There are people sleeping around you and you don’t get a lot of sleep.
“And while the people do the best they can with the food, it does become monotonous eating porridge every morning and soup every night.”
Andy goes on: “The first day was among the most emotional. You’re straight into the climb, a lot of the terrain is quite steep, and I think it dawned on me, the reality and the enormity of what I had taken on. At the end of that day I was quite drained. I was a bit overwhelmed.
“But I knew it would be hard work.”
Getting to the summit was a moment he will never forget: “I had a massive sense of achievement when I got to the top.
“The views are amazing and I was just trying to take it all in.
“Although I don’t think it’s entirely sunk in, what I’ve achieved, it was quite overwhelming to realise that I had done what I set out to do. It was fantastic. I think I question myself sometimes as to why I do these things,” he smiles, “but I never doubted that I would do it.
“I proved a lot to myself that, even as I am now, as a disabled person, a disabled veteran, I can still achieve these goals, I can climb mountains with the right mindset.
“And we all have mountains to climb. For some people their mountain might be getting out of bed that day, or getting up and having a shave.”
As well as giving others hope and showing that they can achieve their goals, Andy adds: “Doing things like this raises awareness of the foundation. The day before we set off four people saw an interview I had done and phoned the foundation to ask for mental health support, so me putting one foot in front of the other may already be helping to save lives.
“We have raised around £100,000 by doing this challenge and that’s money that will go to the foundation, continuing to provide support for people.”
The Standing Tall Foundation which Andy founded helps to support young carers, the vulnerable, and care leavers, and offers mental health support to anyone who needs it.
“Doing things like this makes you a better person, a stronger person and shows what you can achieve.
“I am just always trying to be the best version of myself that I can be and if it changes just one person’s life for the better then it will have been worthwhile.”
After returning home Andy says the first thing he did was give huge hugs to his wife, Claire, and their two children, William and Scarlet.
And the second ‘was to have a nice bacon butty’.
Andy says: “It was great to have a bacon butty that wasn’t covered in dust. It was fantastic.”