Mind over Matter(horn) – submariner Lars conquers iconic Alpine peak for charity

Topic: CommunityFundraising Storyline: Fundraising

Don’t look down.

At the summit of the Matterhorn – arguably the world’s most recognisable mountain though far from its highest – is Leading Hand Lars Atkins, part of a two-strong team of Royal Navy submariners who sought to scale one of the world’s trickiest pinnacles for the Service’s leading charity, the RNRMC, and MacMillan Cancer Support.

Lars – who worked for Merseyside police before joining the Silent Service last year – is something of an adrenalin fiend: he’s a qualified free diver and spear fisher, ultra marathon and fell runner. Last year he added high-altitude mountaineering to his repertoire and scaled Mont Blanc, the Alps’ highest mountain.

Having accomplished that the 24-year-old set his sights on “the most recognisable mountain on earth” (thanks in part to the logo on Toblerone bars) in company with fellow deep Harry Goodliff.

At 4,478 metres – 14,692ft – and spanning the Italian-Swiss borders, the Matterhorn is not quite half the height of Everest, but a much more demanding/deadly prospect than the world’s tallest peak.

“The Matterhorn has claimed the lives of 500 climbers - compared to 322 lives on Everest - due to the sheer drops and brittleness of the rock on the mountain,” Lars explained.

“It is a very technically demanding – there is no point where a climber can hike or walk up it, you are always climbing. Due to the altitude oxygen levels are less than half those at sea level (or found on UK mountains), so fatigue and sickness is a factor that every climber must push through.”

And that proved to be the case: Harry chose to abandon his summit attempt when a combination of altitude and exhaustion hit him hard, leaving Lars to continue.

He scaled Mont Blanc in under 12 hours (most people take up to a week) and Lars was driven by the same speed and determination to conquer the Matterhorn.
He faced both a race against time – thunderstorms were predicted to close in on the summit imminently – on top of already challenging-conditions which saw the sub-zero temperatures leave wet climbing ropes coated with a thin layer of ice.

Just 178 metres from the peak, he too was almost overwhelmed by the physical and mental exertion not just of the ascent but the seven weeks of training  and preparation which had gone into the climb.

Lars persisted, and reached the summit, to unfurl the charity’s flag, take the requisite snapshots and video footage – but there was little time to reflect on his achievement.

His speed – and the worsening weather – made him the only one of a few people that day to conquer the Matterhorn. Four fifths of the climbers were caught on the mountain when the forecast storm set in – ten minutes after Lars had returned to base camp.

The duo set out to raise £5,000 from their climb. They’ve hit their target – but are still taking donations until the beginning of October via: https://gofund.me/85df3ea6