A former Royal Marine Commando battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will this week start his attempt to set a new world record by crossing the world's largest islands on foot.
Louis Nethercott, 27, of Bristol, has spent the past 12 months planning the challenge of a lifetime, and will set off for the dense rainforest in Borneo on November 10, with his 875 mile trek across the island expected to take three months.
His challenge, named Expedition Five, will then continue onto Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Greenland and Baffin Island. He is being supported in his world record attempt by military charity, Help for Heroes, who have grant funded £10,000 for the expedition, the likes of which has never been attempted before.
Louis, who expects the entire challenge to take 18 months, will carry packs weighing at least 30kg including satellite phones, trackers, clothing, insect repellent, sunblock and cooking equipment.
“The overall expedition effort is huge but each individual island will present us with a different challenge”, explained Louis. “We will be trekking through equatorial jungle, crossing some of the largest rivers in the world, hiking up 4,000ft mountains and facing extreme heat and temperatures as low as -25degrees. Trying to take all of the islands on, one after the other, is just insane but we’re so determined.”
For Louis, this challenge means more than just setting a world record – it is a sign of how far he has come after a deployment to Afghanistan left him living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Louis, who joined the military when he was just 17, found being a Royal Marines Commando was not only something he was good at, it was something he loved. His commando unit, and the lads he served with, became his second family. His 10-year military career took him all over the globe, including Europe, India, America, Africa, Norway and the Middle and Far East.
The Marine’s mantra for looking out for each other would prove almost life-saving for Louis in the years following his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 with 42 commando, where he was involved in some of the most intense combat on the Herrick 14 campaign.
The things he saw on that tour would leave a lasting mark on his mind, leading to the development of PTSD. He and the lads found themselves in the middle of “hell on earth” where they spent their days engaged in fire fights or trying to avoid the IEDs that had been buried in the ground on which they patrolling.
“There was a particularly bad incident where some lads got killed or seriously injured,” Louis explained. “I saw some pretty bad stuff, some hairy situations. On coming home from that particular tour, things didn’t quite add up for me. Something had changed, and changed dramatically.
“It was a different world when I came back.”
Speaking about the motivation behind the expedition, Louis said: “When I left the Royal Marines, I wanted a challenge to focus on and I wanted it to be unique. Every year people summit Everest and we wanted to do something different. All of the islands are special in their own way and I’m so excited to see them.
“I was at a point in my life where I was not feeling positive about being a civilian and I needed something to focus on and channel my anger into. When I was medically discharged, I felt so lost. The pivotal point in my recovery was finding a new direction and a new passion. I’m psychologically, and physically ready, to take this epic challenge on.”
To find out more about Expedition Five and to donate, click here.