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 NameAgeBorn / FromPermit AddressRoute TakenSummit DateSummit TimeYear
1Dawson Stelfox35AntrimAntrimNorth (Tibet)27/05/199310:071993
2Pat Falvey37CorkCorkNorth (Tibet)27/05/199509:001995
3Mick Murphy44CorkCorkSouth (Nepal)22/05/200310:002003
4Gerard McDonnell32LimerickUSASouth (Nepal)22/05/200311:102003
5Terence Bannon35DownDownNorth (Tibet)31/05/200308:002003
6Pat Falvey46CorkKerrySouth (Nepal)18/05/200406:452004
7Clare O'Leary33CorkCorkSouth (Nepal)18/05/200406:452004
8Samantha O'Carroll27CorkCorkSouth (Nepal)27/05/200410:202004
9Humphrey Murphy41DublinDonegalNorth (Tibet)30/05/200507:102005
10Grania Willis49DublinDublinNorth (Tibet)05/06/200506:002005
11Fergal Corrigan31FermanaghTyroneNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
12Neill Elliot33FermanaghFermanaghNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
13Raymond Hassard33FermanaghFermanaghNorth (Tibet)17/05/200606:402006
14Noel Hanna39DownDownNorth (Tibet)21/05/200607:352006
15Ian McKeever37WicklowWicklowNorth (Tibet)16/05/200708:002007
16Tom Lehane49CorkEnglandSouth (Nepal)17/05/200707:302007
17Hannah Shields42DerryDerryNorth (Tibet)19/05/200707:002007
18Bill Hanlon52WexfordCanadaSouth (Nepal)22/05/200711:362007
19Nigel Hart41AntrimAntrimSouth (Nepal)23/05/200706:292007
20Roger McMorrow 31AntrimDublinSouth (Nepal)24/05/200707:552007
21Michael O'Dwyer32DublinDublinSouth (Nepal)24/05/200707:552007
22John Dowd53KerryKerrySouth (Nepal)21/05/200807:452008
23Anselm Murphy *24Irish CitizenEnglandSouth (Nepal)21/05/200810:302008
24Ian Taylor29KildareKildareSouth (Nepal)23/05/200806:102008
25Noel Hanna42DownDownSouth (Nepal)21/05/200904:002009
26Lynne Hanna47DownDownSouth (Nepal)21/05/200904:002009
27Christopher Jones45UnknownGalwaySouth (Nepal)21/05/200907:402009
28Domhnall O'Dochartaigh **35Irish CitizenCanadaSouth (Nepal)07/05/201006:002010
29James Haydock ***48LancashireDublinSouth (Nepal)22/05/201006:002010
30Noel Hanna43DownDownSouth (Nepal)23/05/201003:152010
31Vivian Rigney39DublinUSASouth (Nepal)23/05/201009:002010
32Fergus White 37DublinCorkSouth (Nepal)23/05/201006:452010
33Geoffrey Chambers 46ArmaghArmaghSouth (Nepal)16/05/201106:152011
34Basil Geoghegan43DublinDublinSouth (Nepal)19/05/201107:252011
35Gavin Bate ****44KentDownSouth (Nepal)20/05/201110:002011
36Noel Hanna 44DownDownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201101:102011
37Mark Quinn27LimerickLimerickNorth (Tibet)21/05/201105:452011
38Martin Byrne58OffalyTipperaryNorth (Tibet)26/05/201111:302011
39Noel Hanna45DownDownNorth (Tibet)20/05/201208:002012
40Cian O'Brolchain32DublinDublinSouth (Nepal)25/05/201206:002012
41Albert Connaughton49DublinDublinSouth (Nepal)25/05/201207:002012
42Peter O'Connell29GalwayGalwaySouth (Nepal)13/05/201306:302013
43Jason Black42DonegalDonegalNorth (Tibet)19/05/201307:002013
44Noel Hanna 46DownDownNorth (Tibet)20/05/201305:302013
45Brian Meskell33LimerickLimerickNorth (Tibet)22/05/201306:002013
46Robert Smith42TyroneScotlandNorth (Tibet)22/05/201306:002013
47Kieran Lally54MayoDublinSouth (Nepal)23/05/201305:302013
48Noel Hanna47DownDownNorth (Tibet)24/05/201406:302014
49Derek Mahon52DublinDublinNorth (Tibet)24/05/201406:302014
50Robert Smith43TyroneScotlandNorth (Tibet)25/05/201408:002014
51Mary Scannell41KerryEnglandSouth (Nepal)13/05/201609:452016
52Noel Hanna49DownDownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201606:452016
53Lynne Hanna54DownDownNorth (Tibet)21/05/201606:452016
54Robert Mortell26LimerickLimerickNorth (Tibet)23/05/201608:452016
55John Burke38ClareClareSouth (Nepal)16/05/201709:302017
56Terry Kelleher56DublinDublinSouth (Nepal)22/05/201707:302017
57Robert Smith 46TyroneScotlandSouth (Nepal)22/05/201704:402017
58Rory McHugh40DublinEnglandSouth (Nepal)26/05/201711:002017
59Louise McEvoy49DublinUSASouth (Nepal)16/05/2018TBC2018
60Linda Blakely44ArmaghLondonSouth (Nepal)17/05/201807:482018
61Adrian McNally41MeathMeathSouth (Nepal)17/05/201805:302018
62Robert Smith47TyroneScotlandSouth (Nepal)19/05/201806:582018
63Kevin Hynes55GalwayGalwaySouth (Nepal)21/05/201805:302018
64Noel Hanna52DownDownSouth (Nepal)16/05/201909:15 (?)2019
65Seamus Lawless39WicklowWicklowSouth (Nepal)16/05/201909:15 (?)2019
66Jenny Copeland40MeathMeathSouth (Nepal)16/05/201909:15 (?)2019
67Robert Smith48TyroneScotlandSouth (Nepal)23/05/201907:00 (?)2019

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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