It’s an image which will remain with John Scivier for the rest of his days.
He has been fortunate enough to sample some of the world’s most stunning places and meet countless numbers of inspirational figures.
But the moment that keeps returning to him came two years ago when the naval officer was grunting and sweating his way to Everest base camp 17,600ft up in the Himalaya.
With him was Cpl John Le Galloudec. He was shot in the back in Iraq. The bullet shattered his spine leaving him with little use of his legs below the waist.
Johnny, as John calls him, had to use poles on what is one of the world’s toughest treks.
‘There was a point when Johnny was really struggling up Everest. I took his coat off him and offered to take his backpack. But it contained his water and he refused to let me take it,’ says John.
‘Johnny was absolutely determined to get to base camp without help and said: ‘‘No. I’m going to do this like you’re all doing it’’.’
Also in the party was Sgt Darren Carew who had a foot ‘trashed’ when his Army vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Both men made it to base camp.
John, who is now a permanent member of the Admiralty Interview Board, adds: ‘Without being too emotive, it brought me to the point of tears to watch those guys just ploughing through the pain. It was very, very humbling.’
And that is what motivates him to dedicate most of his non-working life to raising money for, mainly, armed forces charities.
In 10 weeks John will be joined by Johnny and Darren at a grand gala charity ball at the Guildhall, Portsmouth, to raise money for Help For Heroes.
Darren has just signed up for a H4H sub-charity called Summit for Heroes in which he and two civilians on John’s Everest trip will now attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain in 2016.
Lt-Cdr Scivier is no stranger to fund-raising. The former captain of HMS Victory (2006-2008) does some quick mental arithmetic while we chat at his Gosport home. In his naval career he reckons he has topped £200,000 for a wide variety of charities.
Hampshire-born John says it all began when he was a young sailor returning from a deployment to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. ‘As we neared home I had my beard shaved off to raise some money and it’s sort of grown from there,’ he adds.
During his two years in Victory he hosted 186 functions on board Nelson’s flagship, many of them for charity.
He’s completed the 48-hour Four Peaks Challenge (Britain and Ireland’s highest mountains) three times, ridden a tandem from Portsmouth to Sunderland, and as a young officer at Portland in the late 1980s drove to every military air traffic establishment on mainland UK in two-and-a-half days. In those days there were 43 of them.
And at 53 there’s no stopping him. The night before we meet he signed up to do the Moroccan Three Peaks Challenge next year which will involve scrambling to the top of the highest three mountains in north Africa.
Oh, and in 2010 there was the small matter of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak in Tanzania. Again it raised money for Help For Heroes. He pulled in £13,000 from the Everest and Kilimanjaro treks.
‘Why do I do it? Of course, it’s the military connection with Help For Heroes and when you see the marvellous rehabilitation work they do with servicemen and women at Headley Court in Surrey and at Tidworth, Wiltshire, and in Plymouth how could I not raise money for them?’
He admits that at the age of 50, three years ago, ‘madness’ prompted him to go for the Everest 75-mile trek. Not forgetting ‘my fantastically understanding and supportive wife Kerry’.
‘I strongly believe if you’re fundraising you have to do something to warrant the money people are giving you.
‘It has to be a challenge to yourself and it has to be seen to be a real challenge by those who sponsor you.’
He had to get in peak physical shape for the Everest and Kilimanjaro expeditions which were run by Discover Adventure, the company which organises all the H4H charity expeditions.
‘Kili took an awful lot of training and I was in London at that time working with the Civil Aviation Authority.
‘They were in a 20-storey block so I would spend every evening climbing the stairs to the top and going back down again.
‘I think the most I ever did was 20 times in one session, which took a good two-and-a-half hours, then I’d go off for a 10-16-mile walk up and down the Thames embankments.’
Even so, John says, nothing can prepare you for the effects of altitude on the body.
‘It affects everyone differently.’
On the Everest trip all except one in the 18-strong party reached base camp. For Kilimanjaro, 14 of the 16 made it to the top.
‘Everybody meets at Heathrow never having seen each other before and you sort of look each other up and down and prejudge who you think might make it and those you think might not.
‘For Kilimanjaro there was a guy who had come out of the South African Army and joined the Coldstream Guards. He was very fit and looked it. I remember thinking I would be in his shadow, yet he was one of the guys who failed. He got bad nose bleeds and altitude sickness.
‘But there was another lad of about 22 who looked quite fit but drank like a fish and smoked like a trooper. I thought there was no way he would make it, but he was a real racing snake – the first up and the first down.’
But John would not swop the pain and sickness on some of the world’s highest mountains for anything.
‘You only have to be with some of the guys who have been injured while serving their country for a short time, to see their determination to overcome appalling disabilities, to understand why it continues to be so necessary to raise money for their rehabilitation.’
LOTS TO BID ON AT GALA
Lt-Cdr John Scivier’s connections with all three armed forces have attracted some mouth-watering auction lots at the grand gala ball at the Guildhall, Portsmouth.
He has split the ‘prizes’ into three categories – Land, Sea and Air – to reflect the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Topping the list is a VIP day for two with the Red Arrows.
This is closely followed by a day for six people with the Battle of Britain memorial flight, at which the winning bidders will be able to get up close and personal with Spitfires, Hurricanes, a Lancaster and Dakota.
At sea there’s a day’s ocean racing for six on the Solent as well as a tour of a Type 45 destroyer and pukka lunch with the captain.
As for the army, John says: ‘I’m, hoping to get a guest attendance for two at a mess dinner, which is very unusual.’
He’s delighted to have secured the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain lots. ‘Those two really are days out that money can’t buy,’ he adds.
The ball is on Saturday, September 14, starting at 6.45pm.
Ticket are £55 per person, but the price is reduced to £500 for those buying a complete table of 10.
To buy tickets, e-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.