Somerset man to highlight inaccessibility of hiking spots with Snowdon wheelchair climb

Josh Wintersgill and Maxwell McKnight are taking on the challenge in June 2024. Credit: PA

A man from Somerset is aiming to set a world record for the fastest climb up Mount Snowdon in a powered wheelchair while raising awareness of the inaccessibility of hiking spots.

Josh Wintersgill, who is 30 and based in Shepton Mallet, said he will be taking on the challenge in an all-terrain wheelchair with the assistance of “quite a big team” in June 2024.

Joining him is 19-year-old Maxwell McKnight from Cambridgeshire.

The pair met at a spinal muscular atrophy activity weekend near Bristol.

Maxwell McKnight and Josh Wintersgill are preparing to climb Mount Snowdon. Credit: left

Josh is the founder and director of Able Move - a company that creates products for wheelchair users.

He said the challenge is “doable with the right support network around us, which we will have”.

He said: “What I’m trying to do is highlight that with the right equipment, people with disabilities that need to use these pieces of equipment can access the outdoors."

Josh has used his all-terrain wheelchair to do several climbs so far but has encountered man-made obstacles that have sometimes made his path inaccessible.

The Mount Snowdon challenge will be the first time Maxwell McKnight will use the all-terrain wheelchair ‘out and about’. Credit: PA

He said: “I purchased one of these all-terrain wheelchairs about a year-and-a-half ago after one of my friends told me that they didn’t feel they would be able to go out walking with me because it’s not accessible and it just wouldn’t be the same.

“I thought, well, why shouldn’t I be able to go out and explore the outdoors and do things.”

One of his first climbs was to Pen y Fan in Wales but after arriving he found that the only pathway had a stile and a locked gate, which he could not get past.

“We literally had to turn around and drive all the way back home, so I wasted five hours because of a padlocked gate.

“Fast forward about four months or so and Pen y Fan actually announced that they have a dedicated onsite team now so we went back, and we managed to successfully do the climb.”

Josh said there are lots of kissing gates and other obstacles in his area, which makes certain trails inaccessible to wheelchair users.

“As a wheelchair user, I’m not able to go on those routes because of these man-made structures that stopped me from being able to pass through."

The Mount Snowdon challenge, called Know No Bounds, will be the first time Maxwell will be using the all-terrain wheelchair.

He took geology for his GCSEs but “couldn’t really explore the outdoors” with his classmates due to the type of wheelchair he had, so Maxwell is excited by the opportunities opened up by the all-terrain wheelchair.

Josh Wintersgill successfully climbed Pen y Fan in an all terrain wheelchair. Credit: PA

Maxwell said: “These wheelchairs won’t only help people’s mental health and ability to explore the world, but they’ll also help people’s educational lives.

“I’m feeling really excited about the challenge to hopefully change somebody’s life within the community.

“Everybody should be able to explore nature by themselves and have the freedom to go outside and not to worry about the safety of themselves.”

So far they have raised more than £27,000 for Spinal Muscular Atrophy Charity UK.

Pascale Harvie, president and general manager at JustGiving, said: “Josh and Maxwell’s Know No Bounds campaign is extraordinary.

“In less than three weeks they have raised a phenomenal amount of money for SMA UK and have increased awareness of the many difficulties that people in wheelchairs face every day.”