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ExWeb Everest debrief: The Irish team
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Jun 14, 2004 14: 24 EST
On Tuesday 18th May, 33 year old, Dr Clare O'Leary from Bandon, Co Cork became the first ever Irish woman to reach the summit of Everest. Clare summited with veteran Cork mountaineer, Pat Falvey, who became the first Irish person to summit Everest from both the Nepal and Tibetan approaches.

Speaking on a satellite phone from the summit, Pat said their climb had gone according to plan. He added: "The weather was superb and we held up to savor the immense thrill and history of our achievement where for a few minutes, Clare stood on the summit of the highest peak on Earth. We have done what we set out to achieve and I'm just so excited."

Clare also became a member of the very exclusive group of less than 100 female summiteers, compared to the over 2,000 total summits.

Clare spoke to her parents and her sister by telephone and expressed through elation and exhaustion just how amazing the experience is, "I set out on St. Patrick's Day with one goal in mind and that was to reach the top and I've done it. I'm really proud to have this honor. We had a very strong team under Pat's leadership and I am very grateful to him and my Nepali teammates. The experience from our previous attempt has paid off this year and I can hardly express my happiness," she said. This Irish team is known for their comradery with their Sherpas; treating them as equals. The team is also well regarded by other climbers, who last year voted the Irish the most entertaining team in BC.

One of the very earliest congratulations to the team came from mountaineer, Ger McDonnell from Limerick and living in Alaska. McDonnell reached the summit a year ago with Mick Murphy from West Cork on a trip led by Falvey. On that climb Clare was forced to abandon the summit due to a stomach bug. Falvey, himself suffering from hypoxia, turned around just 60 meters shy of the summit and was aided to safety by McDonnell, who recently commented; "My heartiest congratulations to the team, to Pat, the Sherpas, John Joyce and most of all to the first Irish woman to stand on any summit over 8000m, let alone the tallest of them all. Hats off to you Clare O'Leary! I only wish I could have been there to see it."

Four weeks earlier, team member John Joyce from Tuam Co Galway was forced to abandon the climb due to exhaustion and altitude sickness.

Just days before their final summit push, Pat had commented, “The ghosts of Everest were haunting my sleep. A hundred and one thoughts crossed my mind as I relived my final summit attempt of last year.

A myriad of thoughts and actions crossed my mind. This is one of the most emotional times for a climber as he or she prepares for the summit attempt. Having read the accounts of past triumphs and tragedies and having suffered the rigors of high altitude and the pressures it puts on the body, climbers are acutely aware of the fine line between success and disaster.

No matter how confident you are, it would be foolhardy to ignore your fears. Fear is a good thing if dealt with in a logical way and confronted as it arises. Fears need to be eliminated one by one, if possible as they occur, leaving only those ones that need to be dealt with on the day.”

This mentality can be seen in many of the dispatches from teams in the final phase of their climb. Those who know the mountains know that they must take a good look at the upcoming obstacles and dangers.

Honorable mention should also go out to Frederick T. Bear, the first Irish teddybear to summit Everest. Through the adventures and discoveries of the bear, as relayed in his journal, e-mails, photographs and video coverage, children can learn about the cultures and traditions of the countries which he visits.

A new chapter in the history of Ireland: Clare O'Leary is the first Irish female to reach the summit. Pat Falvey is right there with her, the first Irish climber to reach the summit from both the North (1995) and the South sides.

On May 27th Samantha O'Carrol, also from County Cork, became the second Irish lady on Everest.This was Sam's first attempt at an 8000m peak.

Clare was a part of Pat’s expedition last year and reached the Lhotse Face (7500m). Another climber on Pat's team last year was Hannah Shields, from Northern Ireland, who reached the South Summit (8750m).

On the North side last year, was also a Northern Irish expedition. Richard Dougan was leading a small team from Northern Ireland (Terrence Bannon, David Sharp, Stephen Synnott, and Marin Duggan), with Jamie McGuinness managing the logistics for the team. They summited Everest late in the season.

Pat Falvey summited from the North side in 1995, and reached to within 160 feet of the summit from the south last year. On May 22nd, two climbers from Pat's Irish Everest 2003 reached the summit, Mick Murphy and Gerard McDonnell. The Irish team was one of the most popular teams down in base camp that year. Other expeditions said that their presence there lifted other climbers spirits.

To date, five Irish people have reached the summit of Mount Everest:

Dawson Stelfox - 1993
Pat Falvey - 1995 & 2004
Mick Murphy - 2003
Ger McDonnell - 2003
Terrence 'Banjo' Bannon - 2003
Clare O'Leary – 2004

Image of Pat and Clare on the summit of Everest courtesy of the team.
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