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Disability advocate completes ‘thrilling’ wheelchair hike up Mount Snowdon

Maxwell McKnight climbed up Mount Snowdon in a powered wheelchair (Joe Watson/PA)
Maxwell McKnight climbed up Mount Snowdon in a powered wheelchair (Joe Watson/PA)

A disability advocate trying to set a world record for the fastest climb up Mount Snowdon in a powered wheelchair said it was “one of the hardest but thrilling things” he has ever done, after reaching the summit.

Maxwell McKnight, 20, who has spinal muscular atrophy, climbed to the top of Wales’ highest mountain on Saturday in six and a half hours, with a team of about 25 people.

Mr McKnight, a student based in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, told the PA news agency that he took on the challenge to raise awareness of outdoor accessibility for wheelchair users, while fundraising for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) UK.

A man in a wheelchair with a group of about 25 people standing on a hillside
Maxwell McKnight climbed Mount Snowdon with a team of about 25 people (Joe Watson/PA)

He is awaiting an official evaluation of his attempt to determine whether he broke a world record.

The most “dramatic” moment of the challenge happened when Mr McKnight slipped off a ramp at the edge of a cliff – and his team pulled him to safety.

“If they weren’t there, it could have been really serious. That was probably the worst bit,” he said.

The all-terrain wheelchair’s batteries needed replacing at one point, so the team performed “a bit of an F1 pitstop” and Mr McKnight finally got a chance to take in his surroundings, he said.

“That was the first time I could really take everything in because I was going up in a straight line and I couldn’t look behind me because my wheelchair couldn’t turn around because we were literally just going straight up,” he said.

Two men in powered wheelchairs on a muddy track
Maxwell McKnight (left) intended to climb Mount Snowdon with Josh Wintersgill (right) (GFX Media NO/PA)

For the final 500 metres, Mr McKnight had to be carried up in a manual wheelchair because of some man-made steps along the trail, which was “really dangerous because the chair was quite unstable”, he said.

People clapped, cheered and took photos during the last stage of his climb, which was “amazing”, Mr McKnight said.

“By this point, it was really foggy because we had entered cloud level which made it more dramatic and looking back it was really cool actually,” he added.

“It was probably one of the hardest but thrilling things I’ve ever done.”

Josh Wintersgill, 30, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was also hoping to make the climb in a powered wheelchair alongside MrKnight, for the Know No Bounds campaign, but could not because he was in hospital.

Mr McKnight said: “It was really sad to not have him with me. He has been a leader of the campaign over the six months and then for him not to be there on that day was really sad, but I took it on the chin and was like, we’re going do this for him.

“He’s going to attempt it when he’s better and I’ve told him all of the parts that are more difficult and the parts that were easier, so hopefully, when he goes in and does it, he’ll find it a lot easier and he can have the best chance of beating my time.”

The men have raised almost £40,000 for SMA UK.

Asked whether he would take on a similar challenge in the future, Mr McKnight said: “It’s definitely taken it out of me but I’m sure me and Josh will probably move on to bigger mountains with time.”

Pascale Harvie, president and general manager of JustGiving, told PA: “Through their Know No Bounds campaign, Josh and Maxwell have raised significant awareness of the many barriers that people in wheelchairs face every day and in doing so they have raised a tremendous sum of money for SMA UK.

“We at JustGiving cannot applaud you both enough and are excited to see what challenges you take on next.”

To find out more about the fundraiser, visit justgiving.com/campaign/knownobounds.