A SOLDIER will climb a 20,000ft mountain in the Himalayas in memory of his father-in-law, who died last month.

Dave Jones, who died aged 70, suffered from the genetic disorder Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) all his life, which left him wheelchair-bound.

Now his son-in-law, Luke Simmons, 40, from Griffithstown, Pontypool, plans to scale the 20,305ft Island Peak - also known as Imja Tse -to raise money for Genetic Alliance UK, a charity which supports people with conditions like HSP.


“Dave was a great man. I didn’t know him before I married my ex-wife, but he welcomed me into the family right away," said Mr Simmons.

“He spent most of his life in Llanyravon and he knew everyone around here. Everyone loved him.

“A 45-minute walk to the shop would take forever as he was stopping and talking with everyone.

“The kids loved going around his house. He loved the kids so much and would do anything for them to make them happy.

“Towards the end, he would take my son for regular trips to the shops on his disability scooter, and they would be speeding down the path together.”

At his funeral, Mr Jones’ family asked for donations to be made to Genetic Alliance UK.

“It was around that time I found out I had some money off a trip to Everest base camp,” said Mr Simmons.

“It sounded like the perfect chance to raise awareness and funds and pay tribute to Dave.

“There’s a lot of people out there who this is affecting.

“I wanted to test myself, so I spoke to the company who organised the trip to base camp and after going through the different climbs I could make, decided to climb to Island Peak instead.

South Wales Argus:

Dave Jones with his grandson Oren. Picture: Luke Simmons

“Island Peak is one of the highest peaks out there. There are ladder crossings over thousand-foot drops and you are climbing up vertical ice walls.

“I have done a few climbs before, but nothing like this.”

Mr Simmons will be making the climb in May 2021.

Among the events Mr Simmons has planned in preparation for the ascent are the Rat Race, a 20-mile cross-country race with more than 200 obstacles to get past, and running five marathons in five days at the Forces March in May.

“Even at base camp, there’s 50 per cent less oxygen in the air, so I need to make my body as efficient as possible,” he said.

“A lot of the preparation work is mental. I have listened to podcasts of people who have made the climb talking about their experiences and preparations so I know what to expect.”

Mr Simmons will also be undertaking a series of adventure training courses provided by the army - including alpine mountaineering courses, winter mountaineering courses, avalanche awareness courses and rock climbing courses over the next 16 months to help prepare for what is ahead.

“Dave is the reason I am doing this,” said Mr Simmons.

“I couldn’t think of any better reason. You meet people in life who make such an impact on you, and for me Dave was one of those people.

“My son is three, so this is also about keeping Dave’s memory alive for him.”

To find out more about the challenge, or how you can support Mr Simmons, visit everestchallenge2021.com