Everest 2023 – Irish Season Summary

2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the first Irish ascent of Everest by Dawson Stelfox at 10:07am on 27th May 1993. That first successful Irish expedition team climbed unsupported via the North Ridge (1960 Chinese route) which was not a well known route at the time. Dawson reached the top on 27th May 1993, and his message to base was “Everest calling Rongbuk. Come in please, over…Dermot, the altimeter is reading 8848m and I’m sitting on the summit of the world“. The team was Dawson Stelfox (Leader); Frank Nugent (Deputy Leader); Dermot Somers; Robbie Fenlon; Mike Barry; Richard O’Neill-Dean; Mick Murphy and Tony Burke. Dawson made it to the summit at 8848m and made history in the process, while Frank made it to 8680m, Robbie and Tony to 8500m, Richard to 8000m, while Mike, Mick and Dermot to 7500m. Elsewhere on the North ridge of Everest that season, Corkman Pat Falvey was part of an international commercial expedition team, and was also attempting to become the 1st Irish to climb Everest, but had to turn at 7800m. Pat returned in 1995 to complete the mission.

This Spring saw 3 Irish climbers on Everest, with 2 successful summits and 1 unsuccessful attempt. Everest has now been climbed 76 times by 59 Irish climbers (9 women, 50 men) since that first Irish ascent 30 years ago, with a total of 147 Irish attempts to climb the mountain over the years. Full details on all of the Irish summits and attempts can be found here.

In broader terms, by the end of 2022 Everest had been climbed 11,341 times since the first summit by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The route split was 7695 South (via Nepal) and 3646 North (via Tibet). The gender split was 10,519 Male and 822 Female. The average summit age was 34.8 years. Of the 11,341 summits, 221 (1.9%) were without supplementary oxygen, 11,120 (98.1%) were achieved with bottled oxygen.

The 2023 season saw Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism issue a record 478 client permits for Everest, which is the most ever issued for a single season and a 40% increase over the past 10 years. This meant that in excess of 1000 people descended on the Khumbu this year to complete an Everest expedition. Here is a summary of Everest permits issued by Nepal since 2013.

  • 2013: 315
  • 2014: 341
  • 2015: 357
  • 2016: 289
  • 2017: 375
  • 2018: 347
  • 2019: 381
  • 2020: Closed
  • 2021: 408
  • 2022: 325
  • 2023: 475

We will have to wait and see what the summit total will be for 2023.

Everest 2023 – Irish Climbers

Johnny Ward

Ryan O’Sullivan

Tom Cleary
(No Summit)

Johnny Ward (39) was climbing within Lukas Furtenbach’s Furtenbach Adventures classic expedition team and successfully reached the summit on 17th May 2023. This was his first attempt at an 8000m peak and his 6th of the 7 Summits (Bass and Messner Lists), with only Vincon Massif in Antarctica left to climb to complete the challenge. Johnny provided refreshingly honest accounts of the climb and brutality of the summit push via his blog in the Irish Examiner newspaper and posted a touching tribute to his mother from the summit. Well done Johnny, a terrific climb and it was a pleasure to read and follow your experience, warts and all.

Ryan O’Sullivan (27) from Sligo was climbing within Dan Mazur’s Summit Climb expedition team and successfully reached the summit at 4:35am on 24th May 2023. This was his first attempt at an 8000m peak and is his 6th of the 7 Summits (Bass List), with only Vinson Massif in Antarctica left to climb to complete the challenge. Ryan turned 27 while at EBC in late April, making him one of the youngest Irish to reach the summit and the Grange native is now well placed to become the youngest Irish person to complete the Seven Summits. Congratulations Ryan and best wishes with that final seventh peak.

Tom Cleary (28) was climbing within Mike Hamill’s Climbing the Seven Summits (CTSS) expedition team. Tom completed all adaptation activity and arrived into Base Camp with the team, but on 24th April 2023 he announced via social media that he was ending his expedition citing ‘safety on the mountain‘. Tom has not elaborated further on that since his return to Dublin, but as with all climbers on all mountains, each will judge their surroundings and their own progress and make decisions that are best for them. I followed Tom’s physical preparation, and it really was first class. Tom will doubtless be disappointed to have come home empty handed, but personal safety is paramount. This was his first attempt at an 8000m peak and I know very well that feeling of returning home without the summit. But much has been achieved Tom and many more adventures lay ahead.

Irish Stats on Everest:

– Everest has been climbed 76 times by 59 Irish climbers (9 women, 50 men) since the first Irish success in 1993.
– The geographic split of successful summits is 31 Northern Ireland, 41 Republic of Ireland and 4 Irish Diaspora.
– Irish success rate on Everest is 52%, while there have been four Irish fatalities (2005, 2011 & two in 2019).
– Only 20 of Ireland’s 59 Everest summiteers had attempted an 8000m peak prior to summiting Everest.
– The first Irish climber to reach the summit of Everest was Dawson Stelfox from Antrim in 1993.
– The 1993 summit by Dawson Stelfox was the first North side ascent by a climber from Britain or Ireland.
– Noel Hanna (Co. Down) has 10 Everest summits – Noel died on Annapurna in 2023.
– Robert Smith (Co. Tyrone) has 7 Everest summits – Robert is an accomplished mountain guide.
– Pat Falvey & Lynne Hanna have 2 Everest summits each – once from each side (Nepal & Tibet).
– Linda Blakely (Armagh) in 2018 & Robert Smith (Tyrone) in 2019 summitted Everest & Lhotse within 24 hours.
– Everest & Lhotse by Linda Blakeley in 2018 was the first ‘same season double’ by a climber from Britain or Ireland.
– The youngest Irish citizen to summit is Anselm Murphy (24). Youngest Irish born to summit is Rob Mortell (26).
– The oldest Irish citizen to reach the summit of Everest was Martin Byrne from Offaly (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.
– Four Irish born climbers died on Everest – Sean Egan (2005), John Delaney (2011), Seamus Lawless (2019) & Kevin Hynes (2019).
– 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), 2014 (Avalanche) & 2006 (Weather/Decisions).

Deaths on Everest:

The 2023 Spring season is drawing to a close with 12 deaths recorded at time of publishing this article, with a handful of others missing. This makes 2023 the 4th deadliest year in the Khumbu:

2015: 18 deaths (Earthquake)
2014: 17 deaths (Mostly Icefall Avalanche)
1996: 15 deaths (Into Thin Air disaster)
2023: 12 deaths so far…

With numbers on the mountain accelerating as the allocation of lucrative permits rises yearly, we have to accept that large crowds are now the norm each Spring on Everest. This year the weather window was reasonable and allowed for a decent number of summit days, yet the death toll is worryingly high. It is hard to shake the feeling that a season is coming when that dangerous cocktail of too many people (some inexperienced and not adequately vetted) combines with a razor thin weather window to produce a catastrophe. I produce these Irish updates and maintain records on climbers North and South who attempt and summit Everest because of a passion for the mountain and the region, which is shared by a great many. But it is hard not to look at the present state of Everest and wonder where this is all going to end. I am fearful that we are walking blindly into a disaster which could have been averted or reduced in scale had those in authority put measures in place to curb inexperience, curtail applications and agree a sensible threshold so that safety doesn’t become compromised for climbers and workers alike. That is easier said than done, especially in a country with significant socio-economic challenges, and especially in the valleys where individual and communal progress depends so heavily on Everest income. For those who aspire to climb Everest (or indeed Lhotse next door), I would recommend doing your homework on how to cope with living in a 1000-person base camp ‘town’, and the complexity of dealing with queues at extreme high altitude. This is not merely a physical and mental challenge, it is also a significant logistical challenge too. So choose your outfitter very wisely, make sure you are fully prepared in terms of mountain and rescue skills, and prepare endlessly for all possible outcomes!

Other 8000m Peaks – Irish Summary

Beyond Everest, 3 Irish climbers were tackling other 8000m peaks this Spring.

Makalu (8485m): Jonathan ‘Duke’ Ruane from Sligo (based in Boston, USA) who successfully climbed Everest last season was back in the Himalayas attempting to climb the worlds 5th highest peak. It has never been summited by an Irish climber with previous attempts by Terry Mooney (1984 & 1988), Calvin Torrans (1989) & Robert Kelso Smith (2010). Duke was time constrained due to work commitments in mid May, and needed a good wind and an early summit window to make it all work. Alas there was no opportunity for Duke to make the summit within the timeframe he had set himself, and he had to leave in early May before the summit window really started to open up on Makalu. It remains the highest mountain in the world not yet climbed by an Irish person.

Dhaulagiri (8167m): James McManus from Tipperary who attempted Everest last year without supplementary oxygen, was back in the Himalayas this Spring to attempt Dhualagiri, the worlds 7th highest peak. It has never been summited by an Irish climber with previous attempts by Robert Mooney (2012) & Kelven Reid (2017). James was once again looking to raise the bar by attempting the climb without supplementary oxygen. He has gained some pedigree at high altitude having reached 7,850m on Everest last year, but was dogged by weather challenges this time around. In what he has described on his IG as the most difficult expedition of his life, he faced significant snow and delays over the 40 days on the mountain which was a significant physical and mental challenge. On his summit push on May 21st the weather turned around midnight and he was hit with high winds and heavy snowfall, resulting in his right eye starting to freeze at 7500m where he turned around and descended after a period. James might not have reached the summit last year or this year, but he has amassed incredible and unique experience that will stand him in terrific stead for next time. An impressive attempt!

Annapurna I (8091m): Noel Hanna from Dromara in Co. Down reached the summit of Annapurna I on 18th April 2023, becoming not just the first Irish climber to attempt one of the worlds most notorious and deadly mountains, but the first to reach the summit. Not long afterwards we received the incredible and shocking news that Noel had passed away in his tent at Camp IV during the descent. Noel’s funeral took place in Belfast on Saturday 29th April. He is dearly missed by so many in the mountaineering community at home and abroad and we send our deepest condolences to Lynne and the wider Hanna family. I wrote a tribute to Noel here.

Everest – The Irish Numbers

Note: Stats for Irish climbers of Everest from Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are combined on this website. That is not a political statement, it is a reflection that climbing and trekking on the Island of Ireland from the mighty Mournes to the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and stretching out into the world beyond, has a long and proud cross-community and cross-border makeup which transcends political and religious backgrounds. Some Everest climbers from Northern Ireland have climbed on their British passports and are proud of their identity as Northern Irish and British, while others from both North and South have climbed on their Irish passport and are equally proud of their Irish identity. Live, let live, and climb!

The author: Paul Devaney is a native of Longford, is co-founder of the Irish Seven Summits project and an aerospace freelancer based in London. Paul is an amateur mountaineer and has completed six of the Seven 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 climbs from Alaska to Antarctica and from Jordan to Ecuador. He lives in London with his wife Rima and twin daughters, and has been documenting Irish climbers on Everest & 8000m peaks since 2014.

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