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(The Gear Loop) - Berghaus has just announced details of its latest Adapt project, which aims to make the great outdoors - and adventuring in general - more accessible to those who face mobility barriers.

Working with Ed Jackson, a former professional rugby union player who, in 2017, fractured multiple vertebrae in his spine, the company assisted a man who was told he might never walk again in conquering both the Allalinhorn (4,027m) and Weissmies (4,017m) peaks in Switzerland in just 48 hours. 

The super human feat, which was assisted by fellow Berghaus athlete Leo Houlding, acted as a pilot scheme for specially adapted hiking and mountaineering kit that had been designed to make Ed’s time on the mountains as comfortable and as efficient as it could be.

BerghausBerghaus launches Adapts sub brand photo 1

The concept kit is what Berghaus refers to as “the first steps” towards the brand's long term vision to ensure its kit empowers everyone to access the outdoors.

Some of the technical clothing created specially for this feat include mountain-specific climbing trousers that featured an additional zip with a large toggle, to allow Ed to access his catheter bag in a quicker and more efficient manner.

Ed also suffers from Brown-Sequard Syndrome, which means the left side of his body is weaker and he has difficulty in lifting his foot and leg, as well as having impaired balance. Berghaus product experts were able to affix a handle to his left knee so that it could be lifted using Ed’s hand while climbing. During the climb, this adaptation proved to be invaluable and enabled Ed to climb 30 per cent quicker on steeper snow slopes. 

Experts in the Berghaus R&D department also quickly worked out that Ed exerts more heat than the average person, due to the massive effort involved in climbing, but also doesn’t sweat below the chest due to the damage to his spinal cord. This can lead to dangerous overheating, so Berghaus created extra zip vents on Ed’s waterproof jackets including the upper back, arms and shoulders, for a quick cooling option without having to physically remove the jacket.

BerghausBerghaus launches Adapts sub brand photo 3

Although the items were very specific to Ed’s requirements, Berghaus has stated that it plans to explore the possibilities of further kit adaptations to enable more people with physical disabilities to access the outdoors.

Commenting on the challenge, Ed said: "I never thought it would be possible to take on these sort of climbs and I know many others who face similar barriers to me would feel the same. My goal for this expedition was to inspire others to get outdoors, to challenge themselves and to show that adventure can be accessible for everyone. 

"The trip has acted as the best proving ground for Berghaus’ adaptations as well as my capabilities, and, with Leo’s expertise and guidance, we have shown how, with the right equipment and support, two ends of the climbing spectrum can be in the mountains together."

Following the expedition, the brand will expand its partnership with Ed’s charity, Millimetres to Mountains, to adapt kit for a number of its beneficiaries. 

Writing by Leon Poultney. Originally published on 15 November 2021.