174: Josh Pelland is a former British Marine Commando and Special Opps who lived a life of adventure until he took a 65 foot fall, became paralyzed and has had to fight his way back. His tenacity, grit and shear will have got him back into the lane of life

October 23, 2020

Josh Pelland

How did Josh Pelland end up in Britain’s Elite Royal Marine Commando and Special Ops? “I grew up in Canada, lived all over Canada. Eighteen I went across and just took a big bite out of adventure and joined the Royal Marines. Main reason for that was the challenge. They have the longest basic training out of any NATO country, eight months. The end product, you know, was to close with and kill the enemy in any environment around the world. All of that sort of stuff I was enthralled with.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Josh Pelland, Professional Speaker and previously a Climber, Adventurer, ParaAthlete, and in Britain’s Elite Royal Marine Commando and Special Ops talks about how his sense of adventure began. “Sixteen I went over to Kenya with family friends of ours that were originally from there. I was pretty grateful for that you know and my family being so free to kind of roam around. And they let me cut about by myself at times when I was there. So, I went into ghettos, slums I met and befriended local lads who took me around to their families in the cities in small rural villages. All of these crazy places.”

What You Will Learn:

Josh Pelland sets the scene for a suspenseful situation that occurred when he was heading to the Massai Mara Game Reserve to see the elephants and giraffes in a taxi: “There was all of these goats in the road and they belong to the Massai. They were quite shy, these herders, nomadic people, tribesmen. It was really rare to see them and they would run away and hide behind their huts or whatever, the bushes. We didn’t really see any of these guys. But when we pulled down into this wati, some of the goats kind of split like the Red Sea and the driver is honking his horn and all of this. As he is pulling up from the right side of the wati to get out of it, I saw this guy from the corner of my eye sprinting across the top and down into the front of the vehicle yelling and screaming and he had his sword out. Then more men came.”

What was running through Josh’s mind when he was mixed up in this life-threatening event? “There is this language barrier even between the African people I was with and this guy picked up this goat that was in the road, that I could gather at that time was that we hit this goat or something and they were obviously really mad about it. This is their livelihood. Oh no, they are going to extort us for money or they are going to kill this guy or whatever. Then out of nowhere, it just kind of all stopped, and all of the guys that were ahead of the vehicle holding these stones, maybe about 20-30 guys all just started laughing and dusted off the driver. He was visibly shaken. These just threw him back in the vehicle and off we went.”  

Was there anything that he learned from this intense experience in Kenya that informed his life later? “That whole time in Kenya and the freedom that I have and really seeing the beauty and the brutality of the world at such a young age, when I got put back into school amongst my peers I felt very different from them, a lot more mature. In a sense, I could hold my own already now through these experiences. It just seemed very boring to me, the world that I had come back to, home in Canada, and I knew that there was so much more out there already, and I experienced a huge bite of it and I just wanted more. That kind of thrust me into that adventure.” 

What did Josh Pelland’s time in the Special Ops teach him? “It really taught me to face my fear with courage. So, recognizing the fear within, yet still moving forward, embracing that adversity, especially in that environment and the places I went and the people I worked with. It was a tough environment and I had to embrace it. The cold, the wet, the hunger, that fear. Also, having cheerfulness in that adversity. That is one of the key things is just laugh at whatever is coming down the pike, or that you know is going to come. Dark humor within that environment is a big thing.”

After moving out of the Special Ops and into the private sector helping some of the maritime companies down in Somalia, did he have any difficult run-ins? “Our main thing was to build that deterrent. We did that by running rows and rows and rows of razor wire along the outside, having hoses going. So there were times when we did have skiffs approaching. Whether they were there to put in an attack or just probing where we would get weapons out and kind of have a show of force. That abruptly got them to spin around and turn around. We gave the crews, which some of them were very fearful as they had family members being held in Somalia or had been held in Somalia.”

Squamish, British Columbia

 Where was Josh Pelland when he fell 65 feet and became paralyzed from the waist down?” “I always had it in the back of my mind, I was always dreaming of climbing, continuing it, pushing myself and just learning. So, I committed myself to being a dirtbag, you know? So, living in the back of my truck, traveling all around summer and winter, just chasing the weather and getting after it as much as I could. So in 2016 I ended up falling 65 feet. I was in Squamish, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, about an hour north of Vancouver. It is where big granite, mecca for rock climbing is. I just went up for a day of climbing. I was rope soloing, so for your audience, it is just managing all of the rope work by myself and using mechanical devices to catch me if I fell. I don’t know what happened. About a month after my injury I ended up getting an email from somebody that saw me fall. So, I was just on this band of cliffs. There were a couple of other climbers there. She looked over at me and I was at the top of the climb, and that is how I know it was 65 feet. I was hooked into the anchor point, organizing all of my ropes and all of my gear 

Falling 65 Feet

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Josh Pelland discusses life from his perspective after his fall. “I landed on my shoulder and the back of my head hit a boulder. I was still conscious trying to sit up and trying to help, I can’t remember. I ended up getting airlifted to Vancouver and I was revived twice in the helicopter. That was pretty brutal. That was probably one of the most difficult times in my life. That first month, I don’t really remember much of it. But my mind did revert back to probably the last bit of trauma that I had been through and that would have been in Afghanistan in 2010. I thought I was captured by the enemy and being tortured. I didn’t know what was going on around me. But I could hear all of these foreign sounds of the hospital, smells, going in and out of surgery, drifting in and out of reality.”

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