Since we first caught up with Joe he has been cracking on with his preparation for his upcoming In the Frame challenge.. a 450 mile journey, starting from Holme fen in Cambridgeshire at -2.4 m below sea level to the highest point in the UK, Ben Nevis via a 400m rock climb called 'Tower Ridge'.
That is a substantial journey for anyone, and the climb would be on the ticklist of many experienced climber but for Joe it is an even greater challenge. Joe will undertake the entire challenge with a large metal cage fixed to the outside of this lower leg. Why? because in March 2011 Joe fell off a mountain and is very lucky to be alive. His metal cage - an Ilizarov external fixator has assisted his road towards recovery but it is an unwieldily contraption unsuited to any kind of extreme activity. Despite this Joe plans to cycle most of the challenge on a bike and also plans to take in a few lakes, lochs and canals by canoe or swim power.
What makes him believe he can do it? Firstly a lot of motivation and support. But it is not just pie in the sky, Joe has been putting in the graft. How about a triathlon? yes please! unlikely as it sounds Joe competed in the Liverpool triathlon in July, perhaps the first person ever to complete a triathlon in a fixator? He is also swimming twice a week and topping that up with 3 gym sessions for good measure... well who wouldn't?
"It's true that perhaps I hadn't thought this Triathlon through completely. Possibly a good thing. Without doubt the single most challenging and painful event I've ever undertaken. I would have never have guessed that swimming in the Mersey would be so enjoyable (compared to the other disciplines at least). Actually head budded a jellyfish!
After a 'slight off' on the bike, in which I damaged my one good elbow, I was flanked by motorbike crew the whole 10k, feeling like royalty. It's fair to say I had underestimated the 5k run section, now with two damaged arms and just one good leg, on the hottest day of the year."
Most of Joes journey is to take place on a bike, but cycling with a fixator has its problems. The frame and rods not only restricts movement in his foot, the top ring being so close to his knee, restricts his ability to bend it beyond 90 degrees. Thanks to the help of his friend Jacek and the team from Grizedale MTB he had a pimped up trike for the triathlon. The choice of trike over a carbon fibre tri-machine was important for stability and the high risk of causing further damage should he fall. Peddling for Joe is almost impossible, even on a trike so to counter this the crank has been shortened to allow some movement and two peddles have been bolted together to allow for the width of the Ilizarov frame, so as not to hit the bike.
The trike is good, it's amazing, but Joe can't cycle the 450 miles on it. During the tri he was running on adrenaline but the sustained effort of many days requires a different approach. Joe has not given up on sourcing and building a unique bike, which will allow two riders to sit side by side, allowing stability for Joe and providing much needed leg power! Why side by side? Rather then a tandem, this will be more conducive to conversation in which time can be past sharing stories.
Despite Joe's enthusiam and drive the reality is that he can not do this alone, the challenge is so obviously brutal physically, but can be eased by the assistance of others. Joe wants to share his journey each step of the way, the plan is to have different people join him for each leg of the challenge and share their own stories. He is also going to be accompanied by a film crew headed up by Lake District based film maker Dom Bush.
"Having this frame on my leg is such an obvious bind, it looks and feels like a torture device, something that I can't hide. But something remarkable has happened since being in the frame, it bridges a gap for people and they not only empathise but share stories of their own traumatic experiences. Tales of pain, stress, fear and positivity, love, enlightenment, lessons learned, beautiful stories which have moved me also. They've given me strength, hope and determination to not just get better but get things done! I think that this Frame lets people open up and share, a kind of 'Togetherness through Trauma."
When he gets to the highest point he will have many people to thank for getting him there, and so many wonderful stories. However leaving the summit of Ben Nevis he will embark straight away on his next journey, heading back to surgery where the Frame can finally be removed after 10 months. Rehabilitation and further physiotherapy will be needed to get walking again, walking towards his next adventure in 2014 and beyond.
Although we are backing this project Joe and Dom are still looking to secure further funds to cover the production of the film. They will shortly be launching the project on the crowd sourcing fund-raiser website Kickstarter. Kickstarter has helped launch hundreds of creative ideas, visit the site and watch the pitch. If you like what they are doing contribute a small token towards getting it made. The film will be premiered at this years Kendal Mountain Film Festival. Be part of it.