§Leo Houlding, left, and Ed Jackson during one of their Lake District training days

Leo Houlding, left, and Ed Jackson during one of their Lake District training days

Top mountaineer Leo Houlding is teaming up with a paraplegic former professional rugby player to help him attempt to summit Mont Blanc.

Ed Jackson dislocated two vertebrae in his neck and exploded a disc, resulting in the loss of 8mm of spinal cord in 2017.

The injuries left him an incomplete quadriplegic, with only limited movement and feeling from the neck down.

Houlding, a veteran of numerous adventurous expeditions and climbs, will join Jackson in his September bid to become the first incomplete quadriplegic to complete a climb of the 4,809m peak, the highest in the Alps.

Jackson said he is determined to reach the summit of Mont Blanc to demonstrate there are no limits to what people can achieve when they set their minds to it.

Both men are ambassadors for outdoor brand Berghaus, which has adapted specialised clothing and gear for Jackson. The company, based in north-east England, said it is committed to making the outdoors accessible to all, while actively encouraging and helping people from all backgrounds to participate.

The company said its product team has made multiple bespoke adaptations to items of clothing and equipment for Jackson, which will help him and Houlding achieve their goal on Mont Blanc. The two climbers have been testing these out while training for their expedition in the Lake District, ahead of a planned departure from the UK in mid-September.

Leo Houlding said: “I’ve always got a kick out of introducing people to steep terrain but when Ed first approached me about Mont Blanc I was hesitant. I didn’t know what he meant by incomplete quadriplegic and it’s a serious mountain for anybody.

“But after a day on Sca Fell seeing Ed’s steely determination, what his disabilities still allow him to do and being around his infectious positivity and good humour, I figured that with a lot of effort and a bit of luck we stand a safe shot at the summit.”

The year following his accident, Ed Jackson moved from having flickers of movement in his toes to pushing his body to its limits up mountains. He co-founded Millimetres 2 Mountains alongside his wife Lois and rugby player Olly Barkley. The charity seeks to promote and provide access to the outdoors, while inspiring others to redefine their limitations through exploration and adventure, especially those experiencing mental health challenges.

Houlding said: “Ed’s Millimetres 2 Mountains ethos, that the top of the mountain is not the destination but just another goal along the way, is valuable to all of us and a message I’m proud to help promote.”

Ed Jackson added: “Leo Houlding is someone who goes beyond himself and pushes human and physical limits. He’s inspired me and I’m delighted that he’s agreed to guide me for the challenge of climbing Mont Blanc.

“Like me, both Leo and the team at Berghaus are passionate about making the outdoors accessible to everyone, so this is an ideal partnership. I am so proud and honoured to have the opportunity to set out on this expedition and am very excited about getting started.”

At the age of 40, Leo Houlding is a veteran of more than a dozen major expeditions around the world. He has led teams with many different levels of experience in some of the harshest conditions on the planet, and is now preparing Ed Jackson for the challenge of Mont Blanc.

The pair have posted a short film about the upcoming challenge on Instagram.

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