Home » First of its kind power mobility chair will take disabled adventurer to top of Yr Wyddfa ‘unaided’
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First of its kind power mobility chair will take disabled adventurer to top of Yr Wyddfa ‘unaided’

AT THE START of June, mental health campaigner and disabled adventurer, Nick Wilson, will summit Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) unaided – the first time this has been attempted, with the help of engineered electric mobility chair RockClimber™, to bring greater awareness to the current accessibility and independence challenges faced by wheelchair users every day.

After 14 years of service, Nick left the Army, with a spinal injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following multiple deployments across the world. He was recently approached by engineering company Rock Engineering Ltd and lead engineers Elliot Dason-Barber and Andrew Miller, who offered to build him a first of its kind power chair to help give Nick back his freedom – and allow him to achieve his ultimate goal, to summit Yr Wyddfa unassisted.

RockClimber™ is based off extensive motorsport design experience to create a new chair concept. It includes 4x electric motors enabling 15Hp of power; bonded aluminium construction for maximum strength and minimum weight (210kg); 4-wheel drive with variable wheelbase to help with climbing and a range of 50 miles on flat terrain.

The project aims to demonstrate how inclusive engineering and technology can be used to improve accessibility in urban and rural environments, enabling people reliant on wheelchairs to have greater independence and freedom without the risk of falling or getting stuck. With more than 650,000 registered wheelchair users in the UK (NHS National Wheelchair Data Collection), there are still barriers in everyday life where wheelchairs are not equipped to tackle different environments, even on the high street.  

Nick explained: “Since becoming semi reliant on my powerchair, I’ve experienced first-hand how bad accessibility can be and whilst momentum is building through the inspirational work of disability influencers and organisations, such as Purple Tuesday who I’m an ambassador of, there’s still a long way to go. Therefore, if we can show how engineering and technology can help us adapt to our environment, opposed to adapting our environment to meet our needs, we can make a difference to people’s lives. It’s certainly improved mine!”

Rock Engineering Director, Elliot Dason-Barber, said they needed to take a different approach when designing the custom power mobility chair: “Off-road wheelchairs already exist, but we needed to design a Mountaineer, not a Trail Runner. As a result, we started by defining the physics of climbing steep rocky slopes and this enabled us to produce a realistic specification of the chair.

“Each system was then designed from a clean sheet, without the limitations of off-the-shelf equipment. In the final design RockClimber incorporates several unique engineering solutions that will hopefully propel Nick to the top of Snowdon. In the future the same technology could be adapted for use in everyday chairs to help address the fundamental challenge, which is to improve accessibility for all.”

Professional engineering body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is championing the project. Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Laura Norton, added: “Our goal is to engineer a better, more inclusive world for everyone and RockClimber is a great example of why inclusive thinking should be at the centre of any design and engineering project.

“I hope this goes as far as to challenge current wheelchair regulations and manufacture so that in future there will be a single-chair solution that will make a fundamental impact to navigating a range of terrains and break down barriers for many more wheelchair users.”

Nick will take on the challenge 3 – 5 June 2024. If you would like to cover Nick’s ascent or arrange a media interview, please contact Rebecca Gillick, IET External Communications Manager via [email protected].

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