Tribute to Ger by Clare O’ Leary
I first met Ger 6 years ago while preparing for an Everest Expedition; a couple of months later we were in Dublin airport, bound for Kathmandu. It was an exciting time and the 6 of us on the team laughed a lot, had great ole fun and an amazing experience... that expedition also left us with a close bond to one another – the friendships you make with teammates on expedition – living 24 hours a day in one another’s pockets, working towards the same goal, experiencing and sharing the same beauty, hardship, fear, peace and enjoyment, - is very different and the friendship runs deep.
I consider myself lucky to have been on 3 expeditions with Ger – and also took a trip out to Alaska to train and hang out with him there – I got to see what a great place Alaska is and more so how much he loved it – his many great and close friends, especially Annie, his band, Last Night’s Fun, and the many places he loved to climb and train.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve gone through several of my expedition photos, looking at pictures of Ger. Its amazing how he happy he looks all the time – the outdoors and nature was a real passion for him – it didn’t have to be extreme – even the simple things – like meeting a bear when out on his bike (!) was exciting for him. He reveled in the beauty of the mountains, the camaraderie of teamwork and the simplicity of expedition life.
On the mountain, Ger was exceptionally strong, fast, competent and safe. In all the climbing I’ve done with him, I’ve never seen him under pressure. My sister came out to Everest base camp in 2003 and when we met the team in the icefall after their summit bid, she remarked to me – ‘Ger looks like he’s only been to the local shop for a loaf of bread!’ – and it was true; it seemed to take so little out of him.
Ger made friends easily and in him, you knew you had a friend for life. He’s a really genuine, warm hearted, decent guy, full of life, energy and fun. He knew how to enjoy himself and drew people to him – people just enjoyed being in his company – having a laugh, messing about, hearing his stories or listening to him sing or play the bodhran.
For me, one of the things that stood out most about Ger from the start was the warm love he had for his family, particularly his mother. He always spoke a lot about them in a very natural, but touching way. I think that was made me trust him so quickly early on.
Ger’s death has had a profound effect on me and I know also on his many climbing friends. He was and is a very special person, a great inspiration to adventurers and dreamers. Ger’s achievements in mountaineering, particularly mountaineering in Ireland, are huge. Not only that, but his strength and honorability in spending over 3 and a half hours at 8300m, attempting to rescue 3 other climbers, while well aware of the risk to his own life, makes him stand out as a real hero.
I know some people find it hard to understand or accept what draws people to the mountains and such extreme adventure; I think George Mallory sums it up -
‘What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.(George Leigh Mallory, 1922)
It’s hard to believe Ger won’t be coming home again. I hope his family, friends and loved ones can find strength and comfort at this difficult time, knowing that he died doing what he loved, in a place that he loved and having fulfilled a major personal ambition.
May you rest in peace, Ger.
Clare O’ Leary