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20th - 21st March 2024
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30 Jan 2024

First of its kind power mobility chair will take disabled adventurer and veteran to top of Mt Snowdon ‘unaided’

On Friday 15th Dec, Towcester – A first of its kind power mobility chair, designed to attempt a solo ascent of Mount Snowdon in 2024, has been unveiled by engineering firm, Rock Engineering and disabled adventurer and war veteran Nick Wilson.

The chair, dubbed ‘Rock Climber’, was launched at Rock Engineering HQ in Towcester, Northants, at an event held on the final day of Disability History Month and attended by Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, Morcea Walker MBE, deputy leader of West Northants Council, Cllr Adam Brown, Armed Forces Covenant champion at WNC, Cllr David Smith and representatives from; Disability Forum, VR Therapies, Sollus Healthcare and Northamptonshire Sports.

Through the challenge of conquering Snowdon unaided, wheelchair user Nick wants to show in the most extreme way, the everyday challenges that wheelchair users face. The project aims to demonstrate how inclusive engineering and technology can be used to improve accessibility in urban and rural environments, enabling people reliant on wheelchairs to have greater independence without the risk of falling or getting stuck.

Nick said: "Since becoming semi reliant on my powerchair, I've experienced first-hand how bad accessibility can be and whilst momentum is building through the inspirational work of disability influencers and organisations, such as Purple Tuesday who I'm an ambassador of, there's still a long way to go. Therefore, if we can show how engineering and technology can help us adapt to our environment, opposed to adapting our environment to meet our needs, we can make a difference to people's lives. It's certainly improved mine!"

As someone who promotes hope through his messaging and embracing, ability over disability, Nick is no stranger to taking on extreme challenges and has completed countless charity fundraising work throughout his military career raising over £125,000 for charities including events such as; 1000-mile cycle for D-Day commemorations and the first Basra half marathon whilst on operational duties in Iraq. Since becoming disabled in 2021 and relying on a powerchair, he completed a 385mile cycle on his specialised recumbent trike, from Margate to Lands End in 2021 and became the first disabled person to complete 96km of the Ridgeway National Trail using a powerchair in 2022.

During these he’s overcome; heat exhaustion, debilitating chronic pain, mental struggles, failure and homelessness, whilst navigating Covid and a severe lack of funding, however, regardless of this he has still found ways to achieve his aim.

   

Rock Engineering took a different approach with the design of RockClimber. Elliot said: "Off-road wheelchairs already exist, but we needed to design a Mountaineer, not a Trail Runner. As a result, we started by defining the physics of climbing steep rocky slopes and this enabled us to produce a realistic specification of the chair. Each system was then designed from a clean sheet, without the limitations of off-the-shelf equipment".

In the final design RockClimber incorporates several unique Engineering solutions that will hopefully propel Nick to the top of Snowdon. In the future the same technology could be adapted for use in everyday-chairs to help address the fundamental challenge, which is to improve accessibility for all.

  

Professional engineering body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is championing the project. Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Laura Norton, added: “Our goal is to engineer a better, more inclusive world for everyone and Rock Climber is a great example of why inclusive thinking should be at the centre of any design and engineering project. I hope this goes as far as to challenge current wheelchair regulations and manufacture so that in future there will be a single-chair solution that will make a fundamental impact to navigating a range of terrains and break down barriers for many more wheelchair users.”

 Vice Lord-Lieutenant said - “Rock Engineering and Nick Wilson are to be congratulated for developing a concept that seems almost impossible.  Mt. Snowden might have been the start of the dream but what is so interesting is how this design can make such a difference to the users of power mobility chairs.  The very experienced engineer owners of the business are constantly ‘thinking outside the box’, always looking and thinking about what can benefit the community and how to introduce and engage young people in this kind of work. Very keen to see how this truly amazing project will develop and confident that it will be successful”. 

Deputy Leader WNC, Cllr Adam Brown said: “It was a pleasure to be invited to the unveiling of the RockClimber, and learn first-hand about its potential to widen access to sports and activities which are currently not open to disabled people. The fact that it has been built right here in West Northamptonshire by Rock Engineering is testament to the talent and ingenuity of our local engineering sector. I wish Nick Wilson the best of luck in his quest to reach the summit of Mount Snowdon, and in his ongoing work to champion the causes of armed forces veterans and people with disabilities. It’s an inspiring mission and one which we can all draw lessons from.”

The next stages will see Rock Engineering and Nick start to test the capabilities of Rock Climber in early 2024, before tackling Mt Snowdon in May. To follow the project’s progress visit: https://rockmobility.co.uk/

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