Pat Falvey with Dr John Demartini
I was invited to give a short presentation about Leadership last month in Dublin about leadership. It was incredable occasion to be involved with so many people that lead such amazing lives from olympians to sport science experts and lond distance marathon runners.
It was amazing being a keynote speaker with Dr John Demartini, he is the author of the breakthrough experience and has stared in the film adaptation of "The Secret" a book about personal development
His methodologies are the culmination of 42 years of cross-disciplinary research and study. He told me about his youth and how he came up from a poor background. In alot of ways it reasonates with my own youth. Coming up in a poor background.
He told me about the time he was told he was told he could not do anything and would be no good at anything. He dropped out of school and went surfing until he was about 18. Then he said this is when it all turned around as he meet his first mentor, a old man of 93 called Paul Bragg and he was the reason he went back to school to conqour his fear of learning and to make something of himself.
John said that once he allowed himself to learn he could not stop and kept learning as much as he could. Since then he has been trying to help as many people as he can. He is quite an intresting man, and an inspiring story.
His journey was intresting, He dived into study about the things I have discovered first hand after years of trying to find what drives men to do be the best that they can do.
The event was a very good you could feel the crowd buzzing with entusiasum and you could tell they were briming with ideas and new inspiration.
Pat at Leadership Event
Pendulum Summit 2017
Tony Nation heads up our corporative events, including teambuilding. Tony has over 35 years experience in the Pharma industry. He is adaptive, flexible, innovative. He enjoys working in a challenging and demanding team situations. Energetic and a strong communicator, Tony has held many rolls in Supervisory/Management and is well versed in Six Sigma, Right First Time, Lean Manufacturing, Human Behavior Safety as well as Leadership Development.
Tony is also a leading trainer within Scouting Ireland and is involved in developing training modules to deliver to new leaders. Tony is a father of four Sean, Damien, Sara and Timothy and from a very early age to instil adventure to his children became involved with his wife Mary in Scouting Ireland, giving of his time voluntary for over 20 years to promote the adventurous spirit in children.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” - Amelia Earhart
You must WANT it badly enough and go-for-it!
When I first started my own business at the age of 15 I was hungry, angry, ambitious, and I had a dream. My father who had a business of his own and had worked his ass off for over 15 years had gone broke and I was angry at the position it left our family in. He lost direction for a while because a creditor who owed him a lot of money had decided not to pay as the economy was going into a recession and dad took the brunt of this by this creditor defaulting on his commitment. For a while he got depressed and he saw no way out to salvage his self-esteem and his pride. He was faced with a terrible dilemma, in turn he could not pay those he owed money to. As he would say, it was the worst period of his life. He had worked hard, done everything right and was an honourable man. I did not see the trauma my own father was going through and it caused a lack of respect. As a young person I could not understand the pain and the anguish that this proud man was going through. I left school to become a millionaire. I had literacy problems and began my trade as a bricklayer but my every waking moment was filled my thought of "I'm going to be a millionaire." I didn't know how I would do it, but that did not stop me believing it and wanting it. I wanted it so badly I was consumed by the thought process. Within a few years I had achieved what I set out to do.
Later my mother gave me advice in the form of a verse that I have abided with throughout my career. The verse was simply called "Want and go for it." I use the thought process in this verse in all I try to achieve. I have developed the thought process to follow the advice in this verse for my goals, and for the team of people I pick to work with me in making my dreams a reality.
If you want a thing badly enough, then you must go and fight for it, give up your time, your peace and sleep for it. If your life seems so lonely and pointless without it and all that you do is you dream and you plan it.
If gladly you fret and sweat for it, then you should go-for-it. But you go-for-it with all of your capacity, your strength and tenacity.
If you simply go after the things in life you want, though tired, gaunt and lonely and if day after day you besiege and beset it, then you will get it. Your dreams and goals will become a reality. (Anon)
When I have a goal I wish to achieve in my own business and adventurers, or with my team members; I insist that we all have the qualities above to ensure success.
Lots happening in October from presentations, lectures, treks etc.
Investment Bank Conference:
Keynote: Pat Falvey: Staying at number 1.
Venue: Raddison Blu St Helens Dublin. Private
Get Up and Go. Conference
Keynote: Pat Falvey, Nora Casey
Web site: http://getupandgoevents.com
Date. October 4th
Enterprise/ Entrepreneur Awards:
Keynote: Pat Falvey: " Succeeding In Business"
Venue: Tullamore Court Hotel, Co. Offaly.
Date: October 6th.
Fitness Assessment Weekend : Ireland
Day and night hike: Trek team training.
Date: October 3rd to 5th
Course Director: Tony Nation
Ideal for trips to Nepal, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus.
Next session December
Contact office. 064 6644181
Adventure Travel World Summit in Killarney
Date: October, 6th-9th
See you there!
Pat Falvey, Ireland's leading adventure company
Leadership Conference INDI/Abbott
Irish Nutrition and Dietetic institute
Keynote speaker: Pat Falvey
Date: October 10th
Certification event for those working in the area of nutrition
Base Camp Everest:
Date: 10th October, 19 days
Leader: Pemba Gyalje Sherpa.
web: Nepal treks for itineraries.
Date: 10th October. 10 days + safari
Leader: Freddy Tarimo.
web: Africa trek itineraries.
Why Not Aventure Film Festival. Galway
Date: Saturday 25th October
Doors open 5pm
A good night guaranteed!
Web site: whynotadventurefilmfestival.com
Official trailer: http://bit.ly/1BdAkj8
Venue: - An Taibhdhearc,Galway City. Ireland
Judges: Pat Falvey, Roisin Finlay, Richard O Donnell and Mike Jones.
Adventure information presentations:
Kilimanjaro, Base Camp Everest, Aconcagua, Mt Elbrus.
Presenter: Pat Falvey and Tony Nation.
Venue: Co Kerry Kate Kearney's Cottage.
Date: October 30 please ring office 064 6644181
Keep posted for information nights coming up in Dublin, Limerick and Galway.
About Pat Falvey : Entrepreneur - Motivational Speaker - Adventurer
Pat Falvey is Ireland’s leading motivational and inspirational business speaker and trainer. Pat is also one of the world's leading expedition leaders. Pat’s aim is to help you achieve your personal and business goals in life as well as to help companies and individuals to achieve maximum efficiency and success in operating as a team.
We were delighted to have our top staff Pat Falvey and Freddy Tarimo to Lead The Girls Club Cork on their fundraising campaign to the top of Africa.
The Girls Club Cork is a voluntary Cancer Support Group for women, their families and friends, who have been directly or indirectly affected by cancer. Founded in 2011, the Club is located at 26 St. Paul's Avenue, Cork City, Co. Cork.
The Club is all about fun and a fighting spirit. In keeping with the fighting spirit a group of 12 brave warriors set off this morning from Cork airport to take on a huge challenge by conquering Kilimanjaro, the roof top of Africa. Not only will they be conquering the mountain but also conquering their own battles with cancer. The group is aiming to raise vital funds for The Girls Club so that we can continue to provide our support services including counselling, holistic therapies, a (free) wig & scarf bank to the women of Cork.
They reached the summit and sang their cancer beating song while waving their flag! It was a sight to behold , there were tears of joy and emotions flowing.
Pat Falvey is one of the worlds best expedition leaders, Pat Falvey has led adventures to some of the most remote regions of the world. With over 69 expeditons and 2 succesful summits of Mount Everest, you can be sure you are in the best of care.
Gerry Walsh is one of our senior tour leaders. He is a co-ordinator for those interested in pursuing walks and treks in other countries. Gerry also leads some of our international treks and safaris to Africa and Nepal. He has vast experience in Africa and has climbed Kilimanjaro over 10 times.
Tony Nation's love for nature and adventure has taken him to some amazing places such as Nepal, Africa, Russia and South America. Like many of our adventure guides and trainers, his passion is instilling local culture and traditions of the places we visit to those that join us on our many expeditions.
Fredrik Tarimo (Chief Trekking Guide) has travelled with Pat for nearly 20 years.
See also our Travel Team Page.
Information on Porters:
We at Irish and Worldwide Adventures ensure that all our staff and agents in every destination value and treat their employees, including porters, with respect and ensure their working rates and conditions are adhering to the local employment and Health and Safety guidelines. We have also built up excellent relationships with all of our operators to ensure the welfare of their guides and porters is a priority and expect the highest standards. For more guidelines and information on porters please contact us.
Here is a sample daily Itinerary, on booking you will be issued a more detailed version as flights times may affect the overall Itinerary. Land only option is from: Arrive afternoon at hotel on Day 2*, Depart morning at hotel on Day 10*.
*Day 1: Leave Ireland - Arrive Kilimanjaro Airport - Hotel B&B
*Day 2: Rest & Briefing day - Hotel B&B*
*Day 3: Start the trek to Machame camp (2980m)
*Day 4: Shira Camp (3840m)
*Day 5: Baranco Camp (3950m)
*Day 6: Acclimatisation Trek Karanga Camp (4100)
*Day 7: Barafu Camp (4550m)
*Day 8: Summit (5895m) - descend down to Mweka camp (3100m)
*Day 9: Mweka Camp to Base Hotel - Hotel B&B
*Day 10: Departure for Ireland or transfer Safari with overnight - Hotel B&B (transfer 5 hour)*
*Day 11: Game drive Lake Manyara proceed for Ngorongoro for dinner - Hotel B&B (Game 5 hour)
*Day 12: Crater tour late noon drive to Arusha for overnight Safari hotel - (Crater 5 hour)
*Day 13: Departure or Fly to Zanzibar; pick up transfer to Mtoni Marine Beach hotel for dinner overnight.
*Day 14: Excursion in Zanzibar visit Stone town tour dinner overnight
*Day 15: Leisure at the beach hotel - dinner overnight Mtoni Marine
*Day 16: Departure for Ireland
*Day 17: Arrive Ireland
Setting off from Cork airport for the adventure of a lifetime!
We set off this morning, all aboard the bus to the Machame Gate,our starting point in the rain forest at 1900 meters. Nerves from last night made way to excitement as the great mountain that is Kilimanjaro loomed in the distance, majestic and soaring above the cloud line.
At Machame Gate it was time to sign in with our leader Pat Falvey and Freddy our head guide. Once all the logistics were sorted we were off andwalked up through beautiful rainforest. Chat, songs and getting to know our fantastic guides and porters, always smiling and chilled like cool bananas.... hakuna matata... no worries!
Before too long, three hours had passed and it was time for lunch of samosas and other yummy snacks. Hit the spot! Then off again up to our first camp, climbing higher all the time and the temperature is starting to dip.
Rumours of strange noises from the bushes. its the wildlife from The People's Republic who are the culprits... will say no more...haha!
We arrived just as darkness fell and were greeted by our 53 porters and guides to the Kilimanjaro song. It sent a shiver through our bodies. The best of welcomes.
We were then briefed on the use of our chemical toilet , the use of our tents and debriefing for the day. We were delighted when Pat and Freddy informed us we all did well.
Now we are sitting having the chat, the craic and supping on our hot drinks and snacking on popcorn before dinner arrives. Looking forward to Day 2, we will sleep well tonight!
Machame camp to Shira camp @ 3950 meters.
This morning started early when at 6:30am we were treated to hot teas and coffees in our tents, we could get used to this! The chemical toilet aka "the powder room" is a big hit with everyone and given the 'windy' conditions some of the team are experiencing it's an even bigger hit with some more than others!!!
Speaking of windy, the weather has been anything but... pretty perfect so far (touch wood) with sun and generally clear skies.
The landscape changed as we hiked higher up the mountain changing from rainforest to beautiful moorland up above cloud level! The views are out if this world!
Altitude has started to make itself known to some of us in the group in different ways. Some mild headaches, low energy at times due to lower oxygen levels and that kind of thing but nothing too dramatic thankfully!
Six hours later we arrived at Shira camp and were greeted by our wonderful porters welcoming us to camp, Africa style, by singing and dancing with joyful abandon. This time we joined them in the dancing and spirits were well and truly lifted after a tiring hike acclimatizing.
Now here we are sitting in our mess tent stuffed after a wonderful meal and enjoying the craic as only the Irish know how. Kilimanjaro doesn't know what hit it haha!
We will sleep well tonight!
Until next time...
Team Kili for The Girls Club xxxx
Shira Camp to Barranco Camp.
An early start again today and the team are getting into the rhythm of trek life. The early morning light makes for stunning views every way you turn. We are feeling happy and blessed to be here. And by 8:30am we are off gradually making our way up the mountain trail. The weather again has been perfect. Someone is looking out for us!
Speaking of luck we are also happy to report we are acclimatizing well and today has been much easier in that regard. Barely any symptoms to report and those we are experiencing are mild at that. We are in luck.
The landscape changes as we trek through the day and we enter into another climate zone of moon-like terrain. Pole pole and one small step for man, one giant leap for cancer survivors! We are here to show people that life doesn't end upon cancer diagnosis and everyone can go after their dreams no matter how big or small.
Within a few hours we reach Lava Towers our acclimatization destination at 4600m. It is hot there and the sun strong so we are very glad of the shade in our mess tent for our lunch.
Then it is time to continue, downhill to our next campsite so we sleep low as is recommended for acclimatisation. By the time we reach Barranco we are tired but our porters are there to greet us again with their wonderful singing and dancing. We are happy to have arrived and despite the fatigue we are in great spirits.
Tomorrow we do the Barranco Wall and we are looking forward to it!
Until next time...
Team Kili for The Girls Club xxxx
The summit attempt tonight. Messages from the team to friends and family.
Grace: I just want to tell my family and boyfriend I'm doing very well and hope I'm doing ye proud. Think of us tonight as we attempt the summit love ye lots xx
Eimear O'Grady: Ciara Maber we are nearly there a few more hours and we will be heading for the summit, you're inspiring me all the way xxx
Noirin Doyle: Hey all having an amazing time here..summit tonight can't wait.. Lots of love xxxx
Karen: Hey guys all going well here one more big climb and and we'll hit the summit fingers crossed a belated happy birthday to dad xx, see ye all soon love Karen xxx
Sam: To all my family+friends+boyfriend David, doing well here! We summit tonight, keep me in your prayers! Want to make you all proud x
Dee Cullinane: Hi to all my family and friends, I'm doing really great and enjoying every moment, Africa is a beautiful country and tonight we attempt the summit, say a prayer for us! See ye all soon xox
Leone Levis: Ryan,Jess & Jack Keep looking out the window tonight I will wave from the top of Kili. miss u
Hi guys Ann and Mike here having a ball with amazing people Pat and the porters are so wonderful getting ready for summit we miss you all guys see u soon Ann and Mike xx
Laura: surprisingly still in one piece without falling, bring on summit! X
Eimear O'S: Hi to all the O'Sullivans, CCB and everyone else following me. Doing well and eating my spuds!!
Eilish O'Boyle: Hi to everyone from Barafu our base camp. Our Kili trek has been an amazing experience. I'm delighted to say I'm doing better than expected with the altitude. Summit night tonight and I will give it my all xxx
Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp 4:
This morning we awoke under the shadow of the imposing rock face that is the Barranco Wall, about 250 metres in height.
Standing facing the wall, we noticed small colorful dots moving at a sharp angle up the rock face.....these were fellow trekkers and porters!!! Wow this looks steep!
There were mixed feelings about The Wall.... from excited to very nervous especially those in the group not good with heights or used to rock scrambling. For many this would be a challenge but a challenge we all met in style with a fierceness of spirit that only challenges like Kilimanjaro bring to the fore. Is feidir linn.... We can do it!!!
And within a couple of hours we had made the ascent and celebrated in style with can cans, star jumps and.... chocolate!
And we walked on surrounded by dramatic scenery above the cloud line. Who would have thunk it! Here we are on the tallest free standing mountain in the world feeling like warriors!!!
And we trekked on, altitude being kind to us today! This climb is high, sleep low and the craic really is the business. Pat tells us we are doing exceptionally well in that regard. Good news and great for team morale.
Before long we see Karanga Camp in the distance. Not long now we think. Eh not quite.... a steep descent and steep climb and we have arrived! Woohoo!!! We are doing it people and can hardly believe it. Tomorrow night we do our summit attempt.... The time is fast approaching and we feel very positive. The Gods have been with us so far. Let's see what tomorrow brings.
Team Kili for The Girls Club xxx
Summit Night report on Kilimanjaro. By Eilish O'Boyle - Kili Blogger for The Girls Club
After just a few hours shut eye we were awoken at 10pm. Well awoken may be an exaggeration as I suspect, like me, it was more resting than sleep.
After a quick feed of biscuits, popcorn and hot drinks it was time for our summit attempt.
Within minutes we began the relentless slog uphill over rocks and zigzagging up sandy terrain underfoot. Darkness was probably to our benefit as at least this way we could not see how much further we had to go and just how steep the terrain was.
Under the watchful eye of a rising red moon we made progress.... slowly slowly. The temperature dropped dramatically as a bitter wind cut into our faces like icy daggers. It was beyond cold and within the first hour our two most of the team began to feel it. Our many layers were keeping us warm but just about. Freddie our head Sidar/Guide and Pat's right hand man in Africa told us the conditions were not normal and we believed him.
Ahead we could see caravans of lights from the head torches of other trekkers marking our path ahead.
Our breaks were short due to the dropping temperatures but vital for sustaining our energy levels. Our little snack pack of biscuits and other goodies kept us going. Our guides were always on hand to help us when it was needed.
And we walked on... doing the infamous Kili shuffle, one foot in front of the other.... and the mantra 'Is Feider Linn' on repeat in our minds.
Considering the extreme conditions we were doing remarkably well but Ann our intrepid leader, (Mama Kili, Mama Simba, Ledge (legend) to her friends and founder of The Girls Club) was unfortunately feeling the altitude more than anyone. With deteriorating weather conditions Pat Falvey Expedition Leader and Freddie made the tough decision and at 5,000 metres it was time for her to go back down for her own safety. Ann decided in the best interest of the team and for safety she would return, Ann had given it her all after just been told she was cancer free just 12 weeks previously, she had reached her Everest at 5000 meters. The team were gutted and continued on to bring her wishes to the summit. This is the reality of altitude. It does not discriminate and in this case she drew the short straw.
The sub zero conditions did not allow us much time with Ann and so we trekked on. Mind over matter we kept going. The sky changed from dark to deep orange as dawn progressed to sunrise.
Eventually we caught view of Stella Point and our spirits raised. We were at the first summit of Kilimanjaro and could hardly believe it!!! The relief and joy we felt along with a renewed determination.... we still had further to go and our adventure was not yet over.... Uhuru the true peak of Kilimanjaro was within reach and by God we were going to get there.
And within an hour or so we did!!! The infamous sign was within sight and together we got there. Emotions flowed... joy, relief, exhaustion and others we couldn't quite express.... we had done it.... together.... for The Girls Club, for our loved ones, for those we have loved and lost. This was a special moment and we would never forget it.
A special blog from each of the team to follow on their personal feelings of summit night to follow tomorrow.
Eilish O'Boyle - Kili Blogger for The Girls Club xxx
The Girls Club go wild! After an amazing success on Kilimanjaro, The Dream Team are taking time out to see the Big Five in Africa on Safari on day one of our three day wild life safari. They will be visiting Ngorongoro Crater one of the most impressive conservation areas in the world. They will also visit the Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, while also gaining an insight into the culture of the local tribes people. I'm delighted that they have taken time to investigate wild Africa before returning to Ireland. Best of luck girls and Mike.
The ‘Get Up and Go – for the life you want’ inaugural event is set to take place on October 4th, 2014 in Sligo, Ireland.
This event will bring together people who are living the life they want, following their dreams, realising their goals and inspiring you to do the same.
The intention of the event is to engage, inspire and motivate people to Get Up and Go in life …. Get busy, get active, get out there …
Our keynote speakers are Pat Falvey & Norah Casey and we also have Jerry Cahill, Bill Liao and many more!
We have a superb range of speakers for our inaugural event. See details below.
Pat Falvey- Entrepreneur - Motivational Speaker – Leader – Adventurer
Norah Casey- one of Ireland's leading business women
Tickets to purchase.
This is a 1-day event and we have flexible ticket options, with a small fee for tickets:
Early Bird – €47.50 (Early bird until September 2nd.)
Full price - €75.00
Student/unemployed/OAP – €47.50
Bring a friend – 2 for €100.00
Group discount – 5-9 persons for €235.00 (€47.50 each), 10 persons for €450.00 (€45.00 each)
Those attending also receive:
Tea & Coffee and a light lunch
Some of the coolest speakers around
Networking with get up and go people from around the world ! AND….
A ‘Get Up and Go’ goodie bag worth €100
Get Up and Go will take place in the northwest of Ireland in County Sligo. It is proudly hosted by Get Up and Go Publications Ltd, who produce the Irish Get Up and Go Diary and the Get Up and Go Diary for teens and young people. The venue for the event is the Clarion Hotel in Sligo.
Freddy was born in 1964 and has been working on Kilimanjaro since 1986 when his first job was as a porter. He became a fully trained guide on Kilimanjaro in 1988. He trained initially as a cook and has completed courses on first aid and high altitude medicine.
Freddy has climbed Kilimanjaro over 315 times and has worked with Pat since 1996. Freddy is recognised as one of the world's leading guides on Kilimanjaro.
He is married with three sons and two daughters; two of his sons, Goodliving and Emanuel, also work on the mountain with him and Pat.
"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart." —Eleanor Roosevelt
Effective leadership is one of the greatest attributes to managing a successful team or organization. To be a leader you need to possess certain traits and characteristics that encourage team members to achieve their full potential. As a leader you need to lead and inspire through your actions and you need to believe in your set-out goals and plans. You need to gain the trust and respect of the team and to stimulate them towards set-out objectives and goals. A leader believes in their ability to follow goals through to the end.
A good leader believes in his/her team. They need to be an effective communicator and to be fair in their expectations of their team members' abilities. A good leader has confidence, integrity, is respectful and fair, and is willing to change direction when required. Leaders lead; they take responsibility for their actions, both when successful and when they fail. We are all leaders in our own right and when we do not get good leaders to follow, we need to be good self-leaders.
Elbrus 2014 Russia : A 7-Summit Challenge
"When Teena Gates and I first spoke first about her ambition to climb mountains she was 23 stone in weight wiht a height of 4 foot 11 inches. She was overweight, unhealthy and had a dream to make a change in her life and become healthy, fit and climb mountains. She needed to lose weight and over 12 months lost nearly half her body weight - 10 stone. Teena is inspirational in her approach and we have worked together and have had amazing experiences in training and climbing together as she has made her dreams a reality to achieve her Everest in climbing mountains, from the hills in Ireland to trekking peaks in Nepal to the slopes of Mt Elbrus in Russia. Below is her blog on Mt Elbrus. Once again proving that if you want something badly enough, you can achieve it. If you plan, train and are part of a focused team you will achieve your ambitions in life. Teena explains in her blog her feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear, excitement and elation at summiting Mt Elbrus in Russia." - Pat Falvey
I looked at the icy slope leading downhill away from me and shuddered. I knew I could go no further unless I tackled my terrors right here. The snow was hard-packed, shiny and hardened into ice. I could see the imprint of the boots that had passed before me and wondered if my feet would hold as well. Smothering all thought of what lay ahead, I took a deep breath, forcing the thin air into my lungs. I reached forward and gratefully took our leader Pat Falvey’s hand, and like a child I slowly and cautiously followed him inch-by-inch down the slope. Terrified of the drop to my right and concentrating firmly on Pat’s orange down jacket, glowing like a beacon ahead, step by step, until we finally reach a makeshift platform. Pat leaves me here with a grin and, thankfully, I hug him, assuring him I can take it from here. I step forward on my own into the dark of the drop-house and breathe a sigh of relief as the smell of human waste engulfs me, finally, I can go to the loo…
I don’t know why people climb mountains. I don’t know why I do myself; and frequently when I’m climbing them, I promise I will never climb them again. Then I see clouds drift across a lofty peak or a movie with the hero stepping confidently in crampons across the rock and ice and suddenly my breath catches in my chest and I think ‘that’s me’. The reality is somewhat different. I stumble and slip in my massive insulated boots, I move awkwardly across the snow in massive down jackets, with freezing fingers squeezed into multiple pairs of gloves, trying to hold onto an axe and make it work in a way that will save your life. It’s not pretty, it’s not an average holiday, and yet we spend weeks of our lives to seek out high, frosty, deadly places to climb. Why? Perhaps in a world which is both easier and harder, the immovable presence of a mountain gives you a benchmark to pit yourself against, to measure yourself against the forces of nature and find out who you are and what you can achieve. As one of the lads said in the safety of base camp last night “If I can do what I did, and go through what I went through up there and come out smiling, what am I capable of back down below in the real world?” Perhaps it’s that simple, mountains make me feel alive.
We all spent months preparing for this trip, all in our various ways. Hiking at home, cycling, running, swimming, gym work. All trying to be fit enough to justify our place in the team. You don’t just sign up for a couple of weeks on a mountain, you sign up for a six-month campaign of attrition. My own preparation was a nightmare. I travelled to Scotland in January to practice ice skills, shot off to Norway in February to get a taste for how to dress against the bitter cold, I ran, swam, cycled, and then I fell, badly. I needed 14 stitches in my knee, two month’s rehab and then 6 weeks frantic activity to try and get my weight down and my fitness back. In doing that, I pulled a lateral Meniscus in my ‘good’ knee. I’d blown it – I was heading off to the mountain overweight and with both knees in braces. I was feeling weak and feeble as we went through our acclimatisation walks and ice-drills on Elbrus, waiting for the moment of truth.
I had massive doubts. But I knew others had concerns too; there were worries about altitude sickness from the light air, lack of energy, reaction to food, concerns over gear, how cold or warm would we be on the mountain. We all had our niggles and worries, and the team pulled together and reassured each other as best we could. Finally, summit day approached with Pat, our expedition leader, and Artem, our Russian guide, locking heads over weather patterns and forecasts for the days ahead. The weather was difficult and local knowledge vital for interpreting conditions on the mountain. But we had worked hard as a team and acclimatised well, with walks up to 5,100m, and sessions practising ice skills and ice-axe arrest techniques on the surrounding slopes. We were strong and we were ready. Despite a storm blowing with thunder and lightening just minutes apart and wind shaking our flimsy hut, we finally got the word that we’d go the following morning. Maybe.
We checked our gear and then prepared for an easy day. I slept. I ate breakfast, prepared my pack and clothes for the summit, and went back to bed. We had lunch in the communal hut and discussed the weather and the chances of going and then I went back to bed and slept again. We had our ‘last supper’ together as a team and I went back to bed, rolling into the row of mattresses that I was sharing with 7 other people, and slept again. I knew I had trained all I could, eaten all I could, hydrated all I could, doubted all I could, prepared all I could, now all I had left to do was rest all I could. In my mind, I was ‘sleeping my way to the top’.
“At 4am with temperatures of -20 and 35k winds, when the cold punches through your ‘top of the range’ down-jacket like a bullet through paper – you know just how fragile you are.”
2am had come and gone and the team thought the trip was off. But two hours later the call went up. With remarkable skill and daring, Pat and his local experts had spotted a weather window and the game was on.
Tumbling out of the heavy sleeping bag and silk liner, pulling on my extra layers, my ice-breaker vest, and favourite Columbia Teflon top and leggings, I add another precautionary Blisteze patch to my heel, before powdering my feet and double socking. Next my heavy double-boots go on, with gaiters to keep the snow out, Gortex waterproof layers, down jacket, balaclava, hat, gloves with liners under mitts, goggles, head torch, hiking poles, ice-axe. Moving heavily I tie on my 12-spike crampons and finally swing my rucksack onto my back, with food and nearly 2 litres of water. I’m ready to follow the team out into the darkness, into the weak, golden pools of light from our head torches, as we leave our camp behind.
At 5,100m the air is light and my lungs screaming for oxygen as we begin the long traverse under the East Summit of Elbrus. I wonder if my mind has been playing tricks because I’m sure someone said this was a gradual slope. Nothing felt gradual about the incline pushing up against my feet. But in the cold, against the wind, and with the effort of each step, I’m suddenly reminded of another reason I love mountains. The life giving sun begins to dawn, casting pink fingers across the waves of frozen landscape, merging with mountain and clouds and me. The incredible beauty of nature. Off in the distance across the deadly slope I’ve been trying to avoid noticing; the shadow of Elbrus is cast pyramid-like against the surrounding mountains. It’s like a scene from the movie ‘The Summit’ when the awe-inspiring and deadly K2 casts it’s shadow across into China. I thought views like that were only for the silver screen and now I’m seeing the same effect here, with my own eyes. The sweeping beauty all around embraces me and warms my soul as the team push slowly forwards against the spindrift as the 35k winds throw surface snow against our faces, driving temperatures as low as -20.
We reach the ‘saddle’ between Elbrus’ iconic twin peaks and the game changes again. The sun’s up and blasting us with her fiery UV rays as the cold winds continue to hammer us, trying to steal fingers and toes. We rest briefly, then rope up in groups of 4, before tackling the next steep incline. The hardest part of this gruelling challenge is before us. The grail lies ahead and nothing between us, save this icy slope. “It’s a hill” I tell myself, as I push my shoulders forward into the wind. Ice axe in one hand, walking pole in the other, inching forward. I ignore the cold, the wind, the sun. I’m telling myself I’m in the Galtee Mountains back in Ireland with my training buddies Tony Nation and Karen Hill. It’s my pace and we’re pushing up Temple Hill. One foot in front of the other.
I’m kicking into the snow and ice with my crampons. I’m
thinking of technique, thinking of efficiency. I feel like dragging my feet forward but know if I don’t use the spikes to connect, my foot will slide and I’ll have an energy sapping jerk, pulling at my sore knee and forcing me to take the step again. So it’s slow, steady, and precise. The familiar mountaineer’s step. One clear stride, resting on your straight leg before kicking forward again with the alternate foot. One of our guides, Sasha, had been talking to me about pressure breathing. Forcing air into your lungs at altitude, without shallow breathing or hyperventilating. So again I concentrated. One step, one breath. Although I felt I was double-timing. Breathing two deep breaths per step. But I wasn’t stopping. I was still moving forward and that was the key. You eat these mountains bite by bite and step by step. I was up front in a line of 4, and occasionally, I’d shout back down the line “lads we have this, lads this is ours , we’re not going back now” and the shouts of encouragement coming back up the line gave me new energy to push harder.
Finally the slope evens out to one last platform before the final summit up ahead. So close I feel I can reach out and touch it. The rest of the team are already there, spread out in bunches of four. Either back in the dip or just dropping down from the summit. There’s breathless congratulations and high fives and reassurances that the summit is just 10 minutes away. The ropes are off, rucksacks abandoned, and we four are on our own again for one last pull. I’m last, but I don’t care, I’m exhausted but I don’t care, I’m sore but I don’t care. I’m having this. I’m taking this. There is no way I’m not going to reach out and grasp this now. Crampons in, 12 points in, push and breath, breath and push. Step after step, lungs screaming, legs screaming, soul soaring. I’m steps away from the summit and I hear some of the team shouting encouragement across the wind. I find new energy and double-time my steps as I pull myself up to stand at the top of Europe. Against clear blue skies, in bright sunlight, I turn around 360 degrees to take in the view, and with a catch in my throat, I slowly realise that TeamElbrus have made it. I’ve made it. 5,642m (18,510ft) the summit of Mount Elbrus.
Later, much later. We’re eating lamb kebabs, drinking local beer and reminding ourselves of the journey we’ve made, both alone and as a team. I’m making my new buddies promise to remind me, never to do this again. So hard, so tough, so demanding and time-consuming. I’ve had it with mountains. I’m no adrenalin junkie, I know when I’ve had more than enough. I’m off trekking in Spain in October with Travel Department but that’s not about endurance, that’s a holiday. Gorgeous 10k walks in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains before heading back to a lovely rural hotel to cool off in the pool. Now that’s civilised. I’m looking forward to walking in Spain. I’ve never done that before. Of course I’ve been walking in other hot climates so I know what to expect and what to wear. I loved hiking in Africa. I climbed Mount Elgon in Uganda before cycling a couple of hundred kilometres over to the Nile to kayak down some white-water rapids. Phyll and Joe from TeamElbrus, they love Africa too. They’ve climbed Kilimanjaro – an amazing mountain they tell me. You know, after Elbrus, and Spain in October, I’d be well fit by next year. Kilimanjaro huh? well maybe just one more mountain…
William ‘Wildfire’ Shorthall
Mick ‘The BIC’ Byrne
Brian ‘Lazarus’ Gallogly
Joe ‘The Snapper’ Byrne
‘Doc’ Phyll Blake Byrne – (My Little Star)
Paddy ‘The Hat’ Lonergan
Noel ‘The Beard’ Garrahan
John Paul ‘Glow in the Dark’ Murphy
Shane ‘I can’t breathe but I’m still coming’ O’Toole
Teena ‘Never Again, Maybe” Gates
Guide; Irish & Worldwide Adventures’ Pat Falvey
Chief Russian guide; Artem Rostovtsev
Read Teena Gates' daily blog on her experience of climbing Mt Elbrus if you wish a to gain further insight into the fears, anxieties and excitment of undertaking the challenge of climbing Mt Elbrus in Russia.
Team Aer Lingus had 100% success in their Carrauntoohil 2014 Challenge, climbing Ireland's highest mountain and as part of their corporate social responsibility the group raised money for their nominated charity, the Children's Leukaemia Association. It was a hard but fantastic day for the whole team that took on the challenge. Well done.
Team leaders and facilitators: Pat Falvey, Tony Nation, John Higgs, Damien Nation and Ian O'Neill