Two wounded veterans Chris Bailey and Paul Warren took part in Rheinmetall MAN truck expedition to achieve the new world record for the highest driven altitude, and the world’s highest construction of a refuge shelter.
Article by Chris Bailey. Photography by Axel Beirbeaum and Chris Bailey.
Chris Bailey, 35, served in the RAF until 2007 when he was wounded in action.Chris Bailey, 35, served in the RAF until 2007 when he was wounded in action. He defied his doctors’ initial prognosis of never being able to walk again or to have a family. Since then, the father of three has dedicated himself to helping other veterans via his role as coordinator of the Herefordshire Veteran Support Group, as well as by working with Walking With The Wounded and The Royal British Legion.
“We want to show what we can do and prove how ambitious we are, just like the great majority of our comrades, both male and female. The expedition is the high point in my 14-year battle to return to a position where I can be as independent as I will ever be. It’s a great opportunity for veterans to have their voice heard. There are many veterans and their families who need support in our community. That’s why I’m taking part in the expedition.”
Paul Warren, 38, is a former Muay Thai champion. He served in the Australian Defence Force for six years before he lost his right leg in combat. Having completed his rehabilitation early, Paul returned to sport and in 2014 achieved fifth place in the 100 m sprint at the Invictus Games in London. He was captain of the Australian team in 2016 and has also published an autobiography, “The Fighter”.
“This expedition is all about performance – performance of the vehicles, the team and also by Chris and me as veterans. We are not defined by our injuries, but by our actions. We will show grit, determination and resilience to ensure that we are successful together with the whole Rheinmetall team. It’s important for me to focus on our capabilities, not on our limitations.”
Military veterans Chris Bailey and Paul Warren with the Rheinmetall MAN HX58 before the expedition.In May last year I was approached by Rheinmetall UK, a leading German defence company, about joining an Australian veteran Paul Warren on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Chile. The aim was to push for two world records, as well as to raise awareness and support for veterans and their families both in the UK and Australia.
Fast forward to July, and we were given the green light for November 2017. Thanks to Trekitt and the team my kit list was quickly adapted to suit my needs, and the kit ordered was prepared for a shake down in North Wales to make sure everything worked as it should. A massive thank you to the guys at Trekitt for all your time and invaluable advice!
So where were we going and why? The expedition’s aim was to set a new world record for the highest driven altitude at a height of 6700m. If this was achieved, there was no way that it could ever be beaten – Ojos Del Salado is the second highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere, and the world’s highest active volcano.
Another objective of the expedition, led by Matthias Jeschke, was to build the world’s highest refuge shelter at a height of 6150m. The necessity of the shelter for saving lives was highlighted three weeks before our arrival on the mountain, when a Polish mountaineer sadly died from exposure. Also, whilst on the mountain, we rescued a group of mountaineers and took them down for medical attention. At high altitude things take longer and are a lot harder on the body, so the rescue lasted around 7 hours and it was exhausting.
I am proud to say that the expedition was successful in achieving the new world record for the highest construction of a refuge shelter, which was aptly named Refugio Amistad (Refuge of Friendship), reflecting the fact that five different nations took part in its construction. The High Andes Rescue Hut was gifted to the Chilean people and dedicated to all mountaineers at Nevado Ojos del Salado. The expedition provided a great platform for raising awareness of the needs and support of veterans and their families both here in the UK and in Australia.
Paul and I were both injured whilst serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have had to overcome life changing disabilities. We lost our military careers, but we are driven to support our veteran communities and their families. To this end we have both created Go Fund Me pages in order to raise much needed funds for veterans’ charities Walking With Wounded and The Royal British Legion.
The construction of the new world’s highest refuge shelter at 6150 was nearly complete after two days of hard work. The Rheinmetall MAN HX58 truck was specially adapted to handle the high altitude, extreme environmental conditions and steep volcano slopes with a largely cobbled surface. The plaque was unveiled on completion of the refuge shelter – the High Andes Rescue Hut was given as a present to the Chilean people and dedicated to all mountaineers at Nevado Ojos del Salado.
On our way home after building the highest refuge shelter in the world at 6150m, Paul and I reflected on the expedition. Feeling very proud of our contribution to saving lives on the mountain, the challenging weather conditions (-25 degrees constant driving wind and -18 degrees inside the tent) were a reminder of our big commitment to raising awareness of the needs of veterans and their families. After some rest and time with our families, we will get our bodies back on track, regroup and continue our dedication to helping our fellow veterans.
If you know anyone struggling to cope with their physical or mental health problems, homelessness or any other crises, which often remain unseen, please get in touch.
Herefordshire Veterans’ Support Group helps all ex-service personnel and their families, and meets on Mondays and Thursdays at Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford www.hvsg.rocks
Tel: 07975 549 493 – Chris Bailey, coordinator
Find out more about the expedition at www.rheinmetall.com/en/rheinmetall_ag/truck_expedition
and on www.gofundme.com/high-altitude-truck-expedition
Herefordshire Veterans’ Support Group is sponsored by Watkins Thomas Residential Property Sales & Lettings, 5 King Street, Hereford. HR4 9BW
Tel: 01432 272280