Veteran heads to Atlas mountains

John Ingham, from Activate, and Mark Kelly, from Healthier Heroes, get ready to climb Toubkal, with support from Wigan Councils John Harker, centre
John Ingham, from Activate, and Mark Kelly, from Healthier Heroes, get ready to climb Toubkal, with support from Wigan Councils John Harker, centre

An army veteran is heading for the highest peak in North Africa as he takes on a fund-raising challenge.

Mark Kelly spent seven years in the infantry of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment and became founding director of Healthier Heroes, which offers support for veterans in the borough.

Other news: Motorcyclist and pedestrian 'seriously injured' after collision

But he faces a challenge of a different kind today as he joins an expedition to climb Toubkal, a mountain in southwestern Morocco.

At 4,167 metres, it is the highest peak in the Atlas mountains and across North Africa.

Mark, who lives in Hindley, said: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough but should be really good. It’s something I have never done.”

Mark and John Ingham, from partner organisation Activate, based in Rochdale, were invited to join the expedition by organisers.

He attended an afternoon tea organised for veterans by military charity The Not Forgotten Association and started talking to their events co-ordinator about what Healthier Heroes does.

Mark said: “I got a phone call the day after to say they had a couple of places and we could go.”

The pair will join a team of 24 veterans from across the UK when they set off on the trip today.

They will spend two to three days trekking to reach the summit of Toubkal and return.

While the temperature will be 32 degrees Celsius in Morocco, there will be snow at the top of the mountain so they must be prepared for freezing conditions.

The men will be raising money for The Not Forgotten Association, which provides recreation, leisure and entertainment to serving personnel and veterans of any age and hopes to develop its services in the North.

The pair have so far collected £150 for the charity.

Mark, 45, said: “I want to raise awareness and a lot of money.

“It’s important to have support for veterans. The Not Forgotten Association makes sure we do not forget people and the sacrifices they have made.

“Because of the recent conflicts, we will start seeing more and more people. A lot of them will be younger veterans.”

Earlier in the summer, members of Healthier Heroes spent two days cycling across the Lake District, returning to Wigan for Armed Forces Day.

The organisation is now based at the borough’s new armed forces hub.