A quadriplegic former professional rugby player is carrying a Christmas tree up the UK’s highest mountains to raise money for charity.
Ed Jackson was a keen outdoor enthusiast when he fractured multiple spinal vertebrae in 2017 as doctors warned him he may never walk again.
But the former rugby union star has defied the odds and, along with fellow climber Ross Stirling, is tackling the “12 Peaks Of Christmas” over six days, raising more than £12,000 so far for the Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation and War Child’s Afghanistan emergency appeal.
They plan to conclude their challenge on the top of Snowdon on Christmas Eve.
The men are using a special rucksack from British outdoor brand Berghaus, modified by Sam Strong on the company’s product development team, to carry their tree up 11,490 metres of ascent in six days across Scotland, England and Wales.
The bespoke piece of kit allows Mr Jackson to climb despite his severe disabilities as he has tackled the country’s most challenging terrain, including the ascent of two 4,000 metre Alpine peaks in 48 hours.
Mr Jackson and Mr Stirling, 39, will have climbed thousands of metres across the course of six days, from Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Great Gable in the Lake District to Yorkshire’s three peaks: Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Gent.
The 12 Peaks Of Christmas will conclude in Wales with Tryfan, Glyder Fawr and finally, Snowdon, the first major mountain Ed ascended after he was able to walk again.
The two are fundraising for the Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation, founded by Mr Jackson to improve the lives of those facing mental health challenges following adversity in their lives through outdoor adventure.
The other 50% of money will be donated to War Child’s Afghanistan emergency appeal, to help more than 400,000 fleeing their homes in the wake of the country’s takeover by the Taliban.
Mr Jackson said of the cause: “Christmas is a time for gratitude, cheer and hope, but for some it instead puts the spotlight on what was and could have been.
“Trauma be it physical or psychological, can steal hope from anyone.
“Ross and I were well aware that carrying a tree while attempting the 12 Peaks Of Christmas is going be very hard work, but we’re determined to make it to the summit of Snowdon on Christmas Eve, which is where my post-accident journey in the outdoors really began!”
“As always, I’m hugely grateful to Berghaus for making some brilliant adaptations to kit that will help keep me moving in the mountains, and to everyone else who is supporting us,” he added.
Mr Jackson played for club and country, representing England in his early years for the U16 and U18 teams.
He won the Four Nations title in 2006 with the England U18 team, before making his senior debut as a number 8 for Bath in 2007 and captaining the team at the Middlesex Stevens.
Mr Jackson was playing for Newport Gwent Dragons when he suffered a spinal injury after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.
To donate to Ed Jackson and Ross Stirling’s 12 Peaks Of Christmas fundraiser, go to: www.justgiving.com/campaign/12peaksofchristmas