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Disabled explorers cross Europe’s largest ice cap

Ed Jackson, Darren Edwards and Niall McCann trekking in the snow on skis with their luggage

A team of intrepid disabled explorers have made history by crossing the largest ice cap in Europe.

Ed Jackson, coach Darren Edwards and biologist Dr Niall McCann raised money for mental health charity Millimetres 2 Mountains bracing winds up to 100kph, driving rain and temperatures which plummeted to -27C (-17F) conquering Iceland’s Vatnajokull Glacier.

The expedition took the adventurous trio just 11 days to complete, but at times they were pushed to breaking point.

Former rugby player Jackson played for Bath and England, but his sporting career was cut short after he broke his neck diving into a swimming pool. 

The accident left him with paralysis and weakness down one side of his body.

Now 34, Jackson alongside his wife Lois run Millimetres 2 Mountains, which supports people recovering from physical and psychological trauma.

Edwards was an army reservist and mountaineer before being involved in a serious climbing accident which left him paralysed from the waist down, he completed the challenge in a sit ski propelling himself through the snow with his arms using poles.

He is now a resilience coach and motivational speaker.

McCann, who researches endangered species in remote areas, lost considerable amounts of movement in his legs in a paragliding accident.

Jackson and McCann used skis on the arctic adventure due to the loss of sensation in their lower arms.

Before setting off Jackson told the BBC: "Between us we've kind of got one working body. But then we've also got one body that doesn't work at all."

McCann recalled one specific night when he and Jackson faced their toughest challenge of the mission.

A blizzard forced the two to leave their tents. Jackson was wearing just a pair of socks because he was unable to dress quickly enough, if he had stayed any longer under canvas any longer he would be at risk finding himself in a dangerous, life-threatening condition.

"We needed all hands on deck, and if any one of us had slipped to the side at any point it could have been over," Dr McCann explained.

Despite the challenges all three men bonded over their victory becoming the first disabled team to cross Europe’s largest ice cap.

 "When we got back to Reykjavik, Ed and I shared a double bed, I was like 'it feels like we've got too much space, shall we snuggle up a little bit closer?" McCann joked.

"We have all brought into that life of adventure - it's part of our recovery, it's an important part of all of our lives and it is not something that is going to end in a hurry."

[ Vatnajokull Glacier is located on the south-east of Iceland, covering approximately 10% of the country. ]

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