Everest 2019 – The Irish Story

The 2019 Everest season is underway, and commentators are predicting that it will be the busiest season yet. From an Irish perspective it is another big year with six climbers involved (4 from RoI, 2 from NI) on both sides of the mountain. The period up until 20th April is typically used for acclimatizing and preparation. The long route to Everest Base Camp is punctuated with climbs of 6000m peaks to prepare the body for the altitude demands of Camp 1 on that first rotation through the icefall in late April. Teams will also shortly be preparing for their Puja (prayer ritual) as they settle into base camp.

Here are the six climbers from RoI and NI attempting Everest this season.

– Séamus Lawless (39) from Bray in Co. Wicklow
– Jenny Copeland (40) from Drumree in Co. Meath
– Noel Hanna (52) from Dromara in Co. Down
– Miko Keane (66) from Corr na Mona in Co. Galway
– Kevin Hynes (56)  from Newbridge in Co. Galway
– Robert Smith (48) from Co. Tyrone

Séamus Lawless

Jenny Copeland

Noel Hanna

Miko Keane

Kevin Hynes

Robert Smith

Séamus Lawless is Assistant Professor of Intelligent Systems in the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity College Dublin. Shay and Jenny are climbing under the banner of ‘Ireland on Everest’ and raising funds for Barretstown. Shay is married to Pam and they have a four-year-old daughter Emma. He will be aiming to be the first person from Bray and only the 2nd from Wicklow (after the late great Ian McKeever) to reach the summit. Shay previously climbed in the Himalayas in 2017 (Mera & Island Peak) and Denali in Alaska last year. More on Shay and Jenny in an interview later in the season.

Jenny Copeland lives in Drumree, Co. Meath. She is married to Bob and they have four children, Charlotte (11), Josh (10), Harriott (8) and Elliott (7). Jenny is a chartered Physiotherapist and enjoys promoting active wellness and preventative health practices. She caught the high-altitude bug during her ascent of Mt. Blanc back in 2000 and has more recently climbed Mera and Island Peak in 2017 as well as Denali last year. Away from the mountains Jenny was a bit of a supremo behind the wheel. At 21, she was in the Fiat Punto racing group and she has raced in Kirkistown, Mondello Park and Phoenix Park.

Noel Hanna was born on the planet Krypton & his parents…. ok kidding, kindof. Noel is a professional mountain guide, originally from Dromara in Co. Down, now living in South Africa with his wife and fellow mountaineer Lynne. He has completed the Seven Summits and climbed Everest an astonishing 8 times including twice with Lynne. Last year he reached the summit of K2 just ahead of Jason Black (Donegal) and Robert Smith (Tyrone) and in 2017 completed an historic 1st ascent of Burke Khang. Noel is back on the Nepal side for a change, guiding and advising Shay & Jenny. All three form a team within a team in the ‘Seven Summits Treks Pvt’ expedition.

Miko Keane is a sheep farmer from Corr na Mona in Co. Galway. Last September he became only the 4th Irish climber to reach the summit of Manaslu (8,156m), having successfully climbed Denali back in 2016 and reached the summits of Elbrus, Kilimanjaro & Mt. Blanc prior to that. A keen outdoor and mountaineering enthusiast in his native Galway, Miko will be missing the Maamturks Challenge for the first time in 18 years, as he focuses on something slightly bigger this time. Miko is with the ‘Ascent Himalayas’ expedition team where Mingma Tsiri Sherpa and his guys will be taking great care of him. He is not really into social media, so I will be relying on his wife Teresa to help keep us updated. Miko is one of the most engaging and down-to-earth guys I have encountered in recent times.

Kevin Hynes is originally from Newbridge in Co. Galway. A climber with great experience, Kev is back for his second season on Everest having successfully reached the summit via south side in 2018. This year he is attempting the North (Tibet) side of the mountain.

Robert Smith is originally from Co. Tyrone (between Sion Mills and Strabane) and is a professional mountain guide living in Fort William in Scotland. He has the unique distinction of having climbed K2 and Everest in the same season in 2018. Robert is an accomplished guide with significant experience including 4 Everest summits, Snow Leopards and extensive Antarctic climbing as well as polar expeditions to name but a few. Robert will be guiding for Adventure Consultants and is leading an Everest-Lhotse expedition aiming to climb both peaks this season.

Also a shout out to Dee McCormack from Co. Galway, one of the medical doctors staffing the Everest ER camp at Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side. Dee has already got the flag flying at the centre of Base Camp and we wish her a successful season.

Finally the other Irish link this season is Cian O’Brolchain from Dublin, now living in Australia (Everest summit 2012) who is Director with World Sherpas who make their debut on Everest this year.

I will have more insights on the 6 climbers as the season progresses, including an interview with Shay and Jenny. But for now, I wish all 6 the best of good fortune as they converge on Base Camp and prepare for the challenge ahead.

(PS – If you know of other Irish connections please let me know). 

Everest 2019 – Where are they now?

As of April 17th 2019, here is the latest status on each…

Séamus, Jenny & Noel arrived into Lukla from Kathmandu on 14th April and are currently in the monastery village of Tengboche after two days of rest and adaptation in Namche. They will continue the upward trek towards Base Camp in the coming days. Worth noting that they landed in Lukla half an hour before the dreadful crash at Lukla airport and Noel had some dramatic photos of that crash on his Facebook page, including some showing him lending a hand to get the injured out of the wreckage and away to safety. A traumatic time for all involved and kudos for getting stuck in to lend a hand.

Miko Keane arrived in Lukla on 8th April with Ascent Himalayas and the team is at Everest Base Camp and headed to Lobuje tomorrow to climb to 6000m over a couple of days as the last major part of preparation before action moves to EBC and the first rotation to Camp 1 in a week or so. It is quite common for teams to do this adaptation away from Everest to avoid any unnecessary crossing of the unpredictable icefall which sits between Base Camp and Camp 1. I once heard the icefall described as a “frozen waterfall atop a slow moving glacier” and that goes some of the way to imagining it. You don’t want to be crossing it if you don’t need to, hence teams will do some of their preparation on Lobuje or Island Peak, as both sit at equivalent altitude to Camp 1.

Kevin Hynes and the 360 Expeditions team are at Base Camp on the Tibet side.

Robert Smith is guiding the Adventure Consultants Everest-Lhotse expedition. The team landed in Lukla on 3rd April and reached Everest Base Camp on April 13th. They are currently on a training climb into the lower icefall in preparation for the first trip to Camp 1 shortly. The team includes American Alex Pancoe who is on the final leg of his Adventurers Grand Slam having completed 6 of the 7 summits and the two poles for a great cause.

The period up to 20th April is generally used for acclimatizing and reaching Base Camp, and by now most teams are approaching or at Base Camp and preparing for the first trip to Camp 1 in the coming days/week. Teams may plan up to 3 rotations on Everest (it varies by team and circumstances), each time increasing altitude and each time returning to their base camp to refuel and reset.

The goal is to be conditioned by early May so that when the weather window appears in mid May, you are prepared to go. This snakes and ladders method of climbing the mountain can be psychologically challenging. You might have a terrific day on your 2nd rotation up to Camp 2, but you have to go all the way back down to Base Camp and do it all over again because this is a marathon not a sprint. Everest is a long game and patience to allow the body to gain the necessary adaptation is essential.

Everest – The Irish Connection

By the start of the 2019 season Everest had been climbed 63 times by 51 different climbers from or based in Ireland and Northern Ireland. In total, there have been 123 attempts to climb Everest by 87 different Irish climbers. Full live stats can be viewed here. The headlines are as follows…

– Everest has been climbed 63 times by 51 Irish climbers (8 women, 43 men) since the first Irish success in 1993.
– Irish success rate on Everest is 50%, while there have been 2 Irish fatalities on Everest (2005 & 2011).
– The first Irish climber to reach the summit of Everest was Dawson Stelfox from Antrim in 1993.
– Noel Hanna (Co. Down – living in S. Africa) has 8 summits – Noel is an accomplished guide.
– Robert Smith (Co. Tyrone – living in Fort William) has 4 summits – Robert is an accomplished guide.
– Pat Falvey & Lynne Hanna have 2 summits each – once from each side of Everest.
– Linda Blakely from Armagh bagged two 8000m peaks (Everest & Lhotse) within 24 hours in 2018.
– Linda also became the first UK woman to summit both Everest and Lhotse in the same season.
– 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 41 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.
– 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 – 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 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 biggest disasters on Everest took place in 2015 (Earthquake/Avalanche), 2014 (Avalanche) & 2006 (Weather/Other).

An Everest expedition typically lasts 60 days, with the first 20 days spent hiking and intensely climbing 6000m peaks along the way to adapt to the altitude, and slowly move towards Base Camp. The following two weeks are spent making progressive advances up the mountain itself and back to base camp to adapt to the higher altitudes (these are called ‘rotations’). Summit windows typically appear from 2nd week of May onward and can be as short as 48 hours or as long as a week. This window requires the jet stream to move away from the summit of the mountain just long enough to enable climbing to the top. Normally the summit window opens around 15th May and closes around 25th of May – but it varies each year.

The cost of an Everest expedition can range from €30k on the budget end to €80k+ on the higher end. The average cost of joining a well-equipped, experienced and well supported team is approximately €40-45k. Those paying at or under €30k should do their homework carefully to ensure they are sufficiently experienced and that the support provided is adequate. Everest is dangerous, so shortcuts should not be taken on any part of the planning.

The first Irish success 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. The full list of all successful Irish summits is further below.

Everest Summits – The Irish List (Live)

#Climber NameAgePermit From/ResidenceRoute TakenSummit DateTimeYear
1Dawson Stelfox35Antrim / AntrimNorth (Tibet)27/05/199310:071993
2Pat Falvey37Cork / CorkNorth (Tibet)27/05/199509:001995
3Mick Murphy44Cork / CorkSouth (Nepal)22/05/200310:002003
4Gerard McDonnell32Limerick / USASouth (Nepal)22/05/200311:102003
5Terence Bannon35Down / DownNorth (Tibet)31/05/200308:002003
6Pat Falvey46Cork / KerrySouth (Nepal)18/05/200406:452004
7Clare O'Leary33Cork / CorkSouth (Nepal)18/05/200406:452004
8Samantha O'Carroll27Cork / CorkSouth (Nepal)27/05/200410:202004
9Humphrey Murphy41Dublin / DonegalNorth (Tibet)30/05/200507:102005
10Grania Willis49Dublin / DublinNorth (Tibet)05/06/200506:002005
11Fergal Corrigan31Fermanagh / TyroneNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
12Neill Elliot33Fermanagh / FermanaghNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
13Raymond Hassard33Fermanagh / FermanaghNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
14Chris Bell32Antrim / EnglandSouth (Nepal)19/05/200609:402006
15Noel Hanna39Down / DownNorth (Tibet)21/05/200607:352006
16Ian McKeever37Wicklow / WicklowNorth (Tibet)16/05/200708:002007
17Tom Lehane49Cork / EnglandSouth (Nepal)17/05/200707:302007
18Hannah Shields42Derry / DerryNorth (Tibet)19/05/200707:002007
19Bill Hanlon52Wexford / CanadaSouth (Nepal)22/05/200711:362007
20Nigel Hart41Antrim / AntrimSouth (Nepal)23/05/200706:292007
21Roger McMorrow 31Antrim / DublinSouth (Nepal)24/05/200707:552007
22Michael O'Dwyer32Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)24/05/200707:552007
23John Dowd53Kerry / KerrySouth (Nepal)21/05/200807:452008
24Anselm Murphy *24Irish Citizen / EnglandSouth (Nepal)21/05/200810:302008
25Ian Taylor29Kildare / KildareSouth (Nepal)23/05/200806:102008
26Noel Hanna42Down / DownSouth (Nepal)21/05/200904:002009
27Lynne Hanna47Down / DownSouth (Nepal)21/05/200904:002009
28Christopher Jones45Unknown / GalwaySouth (Nepal)21/05/200907:402009
29Domhnall O'Dochartaigh **35Irish Citizen / CanadaSouth (Nepal)07/05/201006:002010
30James Haydock ***48Lancashire / DublinSouth (Nepal)22/05/201006:002010
31Noel Hanna43Down / DownSouth (Nepal)23/05/201003:152010
32Vivian Rigney39Dublin / USASouth (Nepal)23/05/201009:002010
33Fergus White 37Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)23/05/201006:452010
34Geoffrey Chambers 46Armagh / ArmaghSouth (Nepal)16/05/201106:152011
35Basil Geoghegan43Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)19/05/201107:252011
36Gavin Bate ****44Kent / DownSouth (Nepal)20/05/201110:002011
37Noel Hanna 44Down / DownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201101:102011
38Mark Quinn27Limerick / LimerickNorth (Tibet)21/05/201105:452011
39Martin Byrne58Offaly / TipperaryNorth (Tibet)26/05/201111:302011
40Noel Hanna45Down / DownNorth (Tibet)20/05/201208:002012
41Cian O'Brolchain32Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)25/05/201206:002012
42Albert Connaughton49Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)25/05/201207:002012
43Peter O'Connell29Galway / GalwaySouth (Nepal)13/05/201306:302013
44Seán Mooney *****27Irish Citizen / CanadaSouth (Nepal)19/05/201305:392013
45Jason Black42Donegal / DonegalNorth (Tibet)19/05/201307:002013
46Noel Hanna 46Down / DownNorth (Tibet)20/05/201305:302013
47Brian Meskell33Limerick / LimerickNorth (Tibet)22/05/201306:002013
48Robert Smith42Tyrone / ScotlandNorth (Tibet)22/05/201306:002013
49Kieran Lally54Mayo / DublinSouth (Nepal)23/05/201305:302013
50Noel Hanna47Down / DownNorth (Tibet)24/05/201406:302014
51Derek Mahon52Dublin / DublinNorth (Tibet)24/05/201406:302014
52Robert Smith43Tyrone / ScotlandNorth (Tibet)25/05/201408:002014
53Mary Scannell41Kerry / EnglandSouth (Nepal)13/05/201609:452016
54Noel Hanna49Down / DownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201606:452016
55Lynne Hanna54Down / DownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201606:452016
56Robert Mortell26Limerick / LimerickNorth (Tibet)23/05/201608:452016
57John Burke38Clare / ClareSouth (Nepal)16/05/201709:302017
58Terry Kelleher56Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)22/05/201707:302017
59Robert Smith 46Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)22/05/201704:402017
60Rory McHugh40Dublin / EnglandSouth (Nepal)26/05/201711:002017
61Louise McEvoy49Dublin / USASouth (Nepal)16/05/201811:002018
62Linda Blakely44Armagh / LondonSouth (Nepal)17/05/201807:482018
63Adrian McNally41Meath / MeathSouth (Nepal)17/05/201805:302018
64Robert Smith47Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)19/05/201806:582018
65Kevin Hynes55Galway / GalwaySouth (Nepal)21/05/201805:302018
66Noel Hanna52Down / DownSouth (Nepal)16/05/201908:302019
67Seamus Lawless39Wicklow / WicklowSouth (Nepal)16/05/201908:302019
68Jenny Copeland40Meath / DublinSouth (Nepal)16/05/201908:302019
69Robert Smith48Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)23/05/201907:002019
70Noel Hanna54Down / DownSouth (Nepal)12/05/202108:302021
71Ronan Murphy40Dublin / EnglandSouth (Nepal)23/05/202109:152021
72Robert Smith50Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)23/05/202110:102021
73Jonathan 'Duke' Ruane42Sligo / SligoSouth (Nepal)15/05/202205:302022
74Robert Smith51Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)20/05/202208:002022
75Johnny Ward39Down / ThailandSouth (Nepal)17/05/202211:002023
76Ryan O'Sullivan27Sligo / SligoSouth (Nepal)24/05/202304:352023
77David Keating58Limerick / LimerickSouth (Nepal)13/05/2024TBC2024
78Michael Fortune41Dublin / DublinSouth (Nepal)13/05/2024TBC2024
79Darragh Ó hAodhaTBCCork / CorkSouth (Nepal)21/05/2024TBC2024
80Robert Smith53Tyrone / ScotlandSouth (Nepal)23/05/2024TBC2024
81Éoin Brogan30Tyrone / WestmeathSouth (Nepal)24/05/2024TBC2024
82Michéal Brogan55Tyrone / WestmeathSouth (Nepal)24/05/2024TBC2024

Above list & map captures the 63 successful ascents of Everest by climbers from Ireland or Northern Ireland or overseas climbers resident in Ireland at time of climb from 1993 to 2018. This list has been researched using data from the Himalayan Database along with independent research to produce a complete record of the Irish on Everest. The map above is limited to just those from Irish counties so it does not capture others with strong Irish connections or Irish citizenship who are not county specific. Hence the list is the more complete source. 

The author: Paul Devaney from Longford is co-founder of Irish Seven Summits and Director of Seven Summits Solutions which provides Aerospace & Digital Design services. Paul is an amateur mountaineer and has completed 6 of the 7 Summits and attempted Everest in 2014 and 2015. In both seasons his expedition was halted due to major incidents (Avalanche in 2014, Earthquake in 2015). Paul has climbed and trained in the Alps and completed expeditions from Alaska to Antarctica. He currently lives in London, England.

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