Everest Season 2018
It’s April, the sun is shining, it must mean yet another Everest season is upon us. For those not in the know, April & May is the main climbing season in the Himalayas, and for a small window of time in mid to late May, the weather system pushes the jet stream away from Everest to provide a window of opportunity for hopeful climbers to achieve their goal of standing on the highest point on Earth. Some teams will currently be in the process of completing their adaptation and arriving into Base Camp, while others will be at Camp 1 and starting their rotations up the high mountain, progressively inching higher and higher on each rotation until they are sufficiently adapted to take advantage of the weather window when it comes, and push upwards to Camp 4 at 8000m, and onward to the summit by mid to late May. This year, thanks to the great work of the Himalayan Database team, I am finally able to properly research and compile insights on Irish & Everest (see further below).
But first, lets acknowledge the Irish climbers (that I know of) that are attempting to climb Mt. Everest this season.
- Paul Greenan from Shankill in Dublin (Nepal Side)
- Denis O’Brien from Charleville in Cork (Nepal Side)
- Louise McEvoy born in Swords in Dublin (Nepal Side)
- Adrian McNally from Navan in Meath (Nepal Side)
- Kevin Hynes from Newbridge in Galway (Nepal Side)
- Linda Blakely from Lurgan in Armagh (Nepal Side)
Paul Greenan was at Camp 1 at the time of writing this, and would be spending a night there as part of the slow process of high altitude adaptation. With each rotation they will progressively move to new altitudes, retreating at the end of each rotation to Base Camp for recovery, and repeating while inching higher until they are comfortably able to progress to Camp 3 at sufficient pace and strength to enable a summit push once the window appears. Teams will complete between 2 and 4 rotations up the mountain during this period. This is Paul’s second attempt on Everest. I first met him while waiting for our blessing from the late Lama Geshe in Pangboche in 2015. We met again a few days later in Dingboche where we chatted and drank coffee with his fellow climber Dan Fredinburg. The next time I saw Paul he was seriously injured and on a stretcher being carried past me at Base Camp. Dan was dead. Paul was lucky to come away with his life as the avalanche triggered by the earthquake tore through the Jagged Globe camp. It takes a great deal to get to Everest in the first place, it takes a great deal more to return, and it takes something else to return after the experience Paul has had. I hope this trip brings better fortunes for both Paul and his team, and I am cheering him eagerly to the Summit.
Denis O’Brien is on a different adaptation pattern which involves the early altitude work being done away from Everest and converging on Base Camp well adapted to 6000m. I utilised and indeed helped design a similar pattern in 2015 with Mingma Tsiri Sherpa after the 2014 icefall disaster when it seemed sensible to reduce/avoid icefall crossings as much as possible by sleeping high on other peaks. Different patterns have different merits, I personally prefer doing the early adaptation work away from the crowds, but you will meet as many who prefer to get under the covers with Everest as early as possible. Denis has just completed the Island Peak leg of his adaptation, and was in Chukung at the time of writing this. Next step would be to make his way to Base Camp for Puja and preparation to move to Camp 1 over the next week or so. Back home, Denis is a member of the Irish-based Ballyhoura Bears walking club who I actually met in Chukung in April 2015 when I was climbing Island Peak as part of my Everest expedition. He has scaled peaks across the Alps as well as Aconcagua and Ama Dablam.
Louise McEvoy was born in Swords (Dublin), moved to Canada when she was 4 years old, and moved to California 17 years ago for work and loved it so much that she stayed. She tells me that her DNA is 98.7% Irish and 1.3% northwestern Europe – so green flowing in the veins. Her interest in mountains started when she moved to USA 17 years ago, she joined a gym, bought a mountain bike, took flying lessons and read a book on Everest and it changed her life. 14 years ago, on a whim, Louise made the trek to EBC and has been climbing ever since in the hope of climbing Everest. Previous climbs include Kilimanjaro, Rainier, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali, Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and a bunch of 14ers in California for good measure. Louise and Denis are climbing with the same extended expedition group.
Adrian McNally from Navan runs transport company McNally Logistics and is a long time member of Bohermeen Athletic Club. Reports in in online news reports state that “Adrian has taken part in a number of races and events for Bohermeen AC over the years and is the main sponsor of the club’s annual half-marathon. The seasoned and dedicated sportsman has also completed a number of iron man challenges in the past and took part in the Race Across America on bicycle”.
Kevin Hynes is from Galway and climbing with Himalayan Guides/Henry Todd . I cannot find any further details on Kevin at this time.
Linda Blakely is from Lurgan in Armagh and now lives in London. Linda started climbing as a girl with the Lurgan Youth Club, climbing around the Mourne Mountains as a schoolgirl. She has climbed 50 mountains all across the world since, including Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro. Linda is a European Championship and Ironman medal winner.
I wish all the Irish climbers the best of good fortune in the days and weeks ahead.
(If anyone has any further information on Kevin Hynes or any other Irish climbers on Everest this year, please let me know).
Ireland & Everest
Collating Everest stats for Irish climbers is tricky because Irish spans climbers born in Ireland or Northern Ireland, or residents of Ireland or Northern Ireland at the time of their climb, or declaring their citizenship as Irish when registering to climb Everest. Picking those groups out of a citizenship-based data set is something of a pain, but to tell the full story of Ireland & Everest you really need to dive down that rabbit hole. Hence for the purpose of this analysis I list successful Irish attempts to include all of the groups mentioned above. This is not a political statement, merely a method of identifying those who I believe should be included in this assessment. Thank you to the great folks who maintain and manage the Himalayan Database for enabling access to the raw data used for this assessment. The work of the late Elizabeth Hawley & her team is somewhat priceless.
Prior to 2018 season Everest had seen 57 successful summits by 47 Irish climbers. At end of 2017 season there had been 115 attempts by 83 Irish climbers to summit the mountain. The headline stats from an Ireland perspective are as follows…
- Everest has seen 57 summits by 47 Irish climbers (6 women, 41 men) since the first Irish success in 1993.
- Irish success rate on Everest is 49% (57/115), while Irish fatality rate on Everest is 0.017% (2/116).
- The first Irish climber to reach the summit of Everest was Dawson Stelfox from Antrim in 1993.
- The most summits is Noel Hanna (8) from Down – Noel guides for the ‘Seven Summits Club’.
- Pat Falvey, Lynne Hanna & Rob Smith have all summited Everest twice – once from each side.
- The youngest Irish born person to reach the summit was Rob Mortell from Limerick (aged 26) in 2016.
- The oldest Irish born person to reach the summit of Everest was Martin Byrne from Offaly (aged 58) in 2012.
- The average age of successful Irish climbers on Everest is 40.8 years.
- The earliest summit date by an Irish climber is 7th May 2010 by Domhnall O’Dochertaigh.
- The latest summit date by an Irish climber is 5th June 2005 by Grania Willis.
- The earliest summit time by an Irish climber is 01:10am on 21st May 2011 by Noel Hanna (2nd earliest ever on Everest).
- The latest summit time by an Irish climber is 11:36am on 22nd May 2007 by Bill Hanlon.
- Two Irish born climbers died while climbing Everest – Dr. Sean Egan in 2005 & John Delaney in 2011.
- Noel & Lynne Hanna hold the world record for the 1st married couple to summit together from both sides (2009 & 2016).
- Charles Howard-Bury from Westmeath lead the 1st Reconnaissance Expedition to Everest in 1921 which included George Mallory.
- Edmund Hillary’s grandmother came from the village of Clondra in Longford. His other grandparents were from Yorkshire in England.
- R.W.G. Hingston from Passage West in Cork was medical officer & naturalist to the 1924 Everest expedition.
- The worst disasters in the history of the Everest took place in 2014 (Avalanche) and 2015 (Earthquake) – The two years I attempted to climb it.
- The Irish have 17th most Everest summits, tied with Austria and ahead of Norway, Poland & Mexico.
An Everest expedition typically lasts 60 days, with the first 20 days spent adapting on 6000m peaks, and slowly moving to Base Camp. The next 20 days are spent making progressive advances up the mountain and back to base camp to adapt to the higher altitudes & then the wait for the Summit window begins.
The cost of an Everest expedition can range from €25k at the budget end of the scale to €80k at the luxury or ‘ah jaysus’ end of the scale. The average cost of joining a well equipped, experienced and credible outfit sits in the range of €35k-€45k. If you are paying less than €30k to climb Everest, either be very experienced or very skeptical about what you are getting and not getting.
The first Irish team to successfully climb Everest in 1993 took the North Ridge (1960 Chinese route), and included: Dawson Stelfox (Leader); Frank Nugent (Deputy Leader); Dermot Somers; Robbie Fenlon; Mike Barry; Richard O’Neill-Dean; Mick Murphy and Tony Burke.
Irish Successes - Climber / Home / Year / Route
(Blue = South via Nepal, Grey = North via Tibet)
Irish Successes on Everest - County Breakdown
It is probably no surprise that Dublin is top of the list, since 1.4m of the entire population of the island (6.5m) resides in County Dublin. However it may be a surprise that Down also sits at the top of the list. This is primarily due to to the climbing prowess of the Hanna household, with Johannesburg based Noel and Lynne jointly smashing records and pushing Down up the list. Cork, Limerick and Antrim make up the remainder of the top 5. In total, 18 counties across the island can claim 1 or more summits of Everest.
Irish Successes on Everest - Route Selection
The South side (via Nepal) has historically been the most popular choice for successful Irish ascents. Since 2011, there has been a distinct shift to the North side (via Tibet), which continues apace with introduction of restrictions on Nepal side and the difficulties experienced in Nepal during the 2014 & 2015 seasons. Whilst an Irish shift north did not materialise in 2017, the pendulum is swinging towards Tibet and will likely result in a balancing of numbers on both sides.
Irish Successes on Everest - Previous 8000m Experience?
It is said that the best preparation for a successful Everest expedition is to climb another 8000m peak. While some climbers attempt one or more such peaks ahead of Everest, the statistics show that 64% of all successful Irish climbers on Everest had never climbed or even attempted an 8000m peak prior to their first Everest success. In addition, 58% of successful Irish climbers on Everest had never climbed a Himalayan peak above 7000m prior to their first Everest success. Whatever your position is on prior 8000m experience, the Irish statistics would suggest that it is not a prerequisite. Sufficed to say that the more big expedition or high altitude experience you gain, the better your chances will be of success on Everest.
There are many ways to prepare for high altitude mountaineering, and gaining skill and capability is every bit as valid in the Alps or Alaska as it is in the Himalayas. While experience at extreme altitude is without doubt a massive benefit, many have climbed Everest with 6000-7000m altitude experience, but with deep mountaineering experiences from elsewhere. Some have great physiology which allows them to endure more successfully at higher altitudes, some have great luck which prevented them from getting into trouble. I believe the magic formula is a combination of appropriate skill base, appropriate functional training, discipline, long expedition experience, gear management, ability to suffer for long periods without whinging, and ability to look after yourself unaided in the high mountains.
Irish Attempts on Everest - Climber / Year / Summit / Altitude
Up to end 2017 there had been 115 Irish attempts on Everest over the years by 83 climbers. While 57 of those 115 attempts proved successful, it is fascinating to see how close many others came to the summit. In particular it is fascinating to see how many climbers had to turn around above 8000m. This must have been a very difficult decision for each to make, and anyone who has been to extreme altitude will acknowledge the incredible strength and effort it takes to get that far. It is also remarkable to note how many people did not make it on the first attempt. Gavin Bate reached the summit on his 5th attempt. Pat Falvey had two successes, but also turned around on two attempts, once with just 50 meters from the summit. Martin Byrne finally made it on his 4th expedition. Others were not so lucky but their persistence is incredibly noteworthy, including Patricia McGuirk who made three attempts, getting to 8650m on the third time, but not reaching the summit. It is also interesting to see how high each of the 1993 team managed to reach on that first expedition. Dawson rightly gets the plaudits for reaching the summit, but many of his teammates almost made it too. Interestingly only one of that team went back to try again – Mick Murphy would succeed on the second attempt 10 years later in 2003.
(Red colour denotes climbers who died during their attempt)
Irish Attempts on Everest - Listing
|#||Name||Age||Born / From||Permit Address||Reached||Summit||Year|
|5||Richard O'Neill-Dean||39||Ireland||New Zealand||8000||No||1993|
|11||Sean Smith||33||Ireland||England||No Data||No||1995|
|15||Marcella Dunne||42||Dublin||Dublin||No Data||No||1999|
|17||Mick Long||40||Kerry||Kerry||No Data||No||2001|
|37||Mark Carr||52||Down||Down||No Data||No||2004|
|38||Bridget Rossiter-O'Flynn||43||Wexford||Wexford||No Data||No||2004|
|44||Sean Egan (D)||63||Clare||Canada||6000||No||2005|
|88||John Delaney (D)||41||Kildare||Kildare||8800||No||2011|
D = Denotes climbers who died during their attempt
Total Everest Summits
Everest had been successfully climbed 8300 times by 4830+ people since the first successful ascent in 1953. The summit of Everest straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet at an altitude of 29,035ft or 8848m. The mountain was initially named Peak XV before being renamed in 1856 after George Everest, a retired British Surveyor General who never actually saw the peak. The graphic below shows the increase in summit numbers over the years, with notable reduction in 2014 following the avalanche in the Ice Fall and effective shutdown of Nepal side, along with absence of 2015 stats due to the Nepal Earthquake & avalanche at Base Camp which occurred midway through the climbing season and led to the full shutdown of the mountain.
Everest Fatalities by Altitude / Year
There has been approximately 290 fatalities on Everest for a range of reasons and across a wide range of altitudes. The info-graphic below shows a correlation of fatalities with altitudes at which they were reported. The two obvious spikes are 2014 and 2015 where large scale fatalities occurred in the icefall just above base camp in 2014 and at base camp during the earthquake of 2015. The next largest year of fatalities was the infamous 1996 ‘Into Thin Air’ disaster which is well documented in book and film. 92 of the fatalities recorded in the Himalayan Database occurred after the climbers had reached the summit. These serve as stark reminders that climbing is a dangerous enterprise, and should not be approached lightly.
Everest Summits by Country
The info-graphic below shows the extent of summits by each country (recorded by citizenship) from 1953 to 2017. Nepal leads the way (which is no surprise since the vast majority of guides and high altitude workers are Nepalese Sherpa), while USA, China, UK and India make up the rest of the top 5 countries with climbers who have reached the top of Everest over the years. Ireland punches well above its weight, and even though it appears in 21st position in the overall picture below, if you look at it from an ‘Island’ perspective, Ireland is actually in joint 17th position with Austria. Not bad for a small island of 6.5m people.
About the author: Paul Devaney is from Longford, Ireland and is co-founder of Irish Seven Summits and Director of Seven Summits Solutions which provides Aerospace and Digital Design services. Paul is also an amateur mountaineer and adventurer, has completed 6 of the Seven Summits and attempted Everest in 2014 and 2015. In both instances his expedition was halted after 25 days due to major disasters (Avalanche in 2014 and Earthquake in 2015). Paul has climbed and trained in the Alps, and scaled mountains from Alaska to Antarctica and beyond. He lives in London, England.