Next month Paul Devaney from Killoe in Longford and Niall O’Byrnes from Castledermot in Kildare will begin a 20-day expedition to reach the summit of Aconcagua, the highest point in South America, the tallest peak in the western hemisphere and the largest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
Both are about to take their next step in a bid to complete the Seven Summit Challenge, climbing the highest mountain on each continent. Having already raised over €16,000.00 for charity during their 4 expeditions to date, the adventurous duo have set themselves the target of fundraising €7000 for their summit bid on Aconcagua. This represents €1 for each meter on the mountain, which is located in the Andes range, on the border with Chile in one of the most remote regions of Argentina.
The intrepid pair have already completed four of the seven peaks that make up the Seven Summit Challenge – the most recent being their successful ascent of Denali, a 6000m mountain of ice and snow in the Alaska wilderness which is the highest point in North America and one of the coldest and most demanding mountains on the planet. Both have previously climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Elbrus in Russia, Mont Blanc in France and Kosciuszko in Australia. The team is keen to use this experience to benefit others, and have focused their efforts on some significant fundraising for charities including Make-A-Wish, Concern, Self-Help Africa, Positive Behaviour Ireland and Susan G Komen. This time around they are hoping to raise €7000 for the Children’s Sunshine Home, Irelands first hospice for children.
Pauls fascination with altitude and endurance began while living and working in Asia in 2005. Paul had been training and playing with the Hong Kong GAA club for all of 2005 and the intense training in high humidity conditions proved perfect preparation for a big adventure. In October of that year Paul flew to Nepal and headed off on his first expedition to Everest base camp. The adventure proved thrilling and the view onto Everest so magnetic that he was hooked. In the weeks following Everest Base Camp, Paul stumbled across a movie on Kilimanjaro which was playing in the Space Museum in Kowloon.
“I recall being mesmerized and determined to climb Kilimanjaro when my Asia assignment was over. So in 2007 i gathered some friends from University of Limerick and a group of 6 of us headed off to Tanzania to begin our climb on Kilimanjaro. After a successful summit we were reflecting on our adventure back in Arusha when someone mentioned that we had completed 1 of the 7 summits. We quickly started to investigated the others and planned to ‘try our luck’ with Elbrus in July 2008. The conditions were much more difficult than on Kilimanjaro but despite some crazy winds and very low temperatures we had made it – 2 of 7″. And so their 7-summit adventure continued, the group changed with Niall and Paul as the constant duo, completing Kosciuszko and the demanding ascent of Denali/McKinley in 2010. There is no doubt that McKinley was a game changer in terms of conditions, physical demands and environment – this was real mountaineering at its best. And so we now stand on the verge of 5 of 7, but neither myself nor Niall are underestimating the demands of Aconcagua and the size of the task ahead. Our training for Aconcagua actually began in December 2010 with an ascent of Croagh Patrick with Matt Loughrey who was fundraising for his 365 adventure. Each mountain presents an opportunity to raise funds for worthwhile causes (Concern, Positive Behaviour Ireland, Self-Help Ireland, Make-A-Wish) and this mountain will be no different”.
Paul and Nialls Aconcagua fundraising will enable the purchase of two much-needed oxygen devices for the Children’s Sunshine Home to allow chronically ill children more freedom of movement within the hospice facility and beyond. “All the proceeds from our fundraising efforts are donated directly to our selected charity. The prospect of supporting such incredibly worthwhile causes makes every climb a very special experience,” says Paul.
“Each of the mountains brings its own challenges,” says Niall. “Aconcagua presents us with a new unknown because of the altitude affects at 22,841ft along with the infamous wind speeds close to the peak, but the breathtaking views from the summit always makes the ascent worthwhile.”
Should they be successful in South America, Paul and Niall plan to tackle the Vinson Massif set in the frozen wastelands of Antarctica in 2012, with a shot at the holy grail of Mount Everest penciled in for the summer of 2014. For now the focus is on Aconcagua and reaching South Americas highest point.
More information on Paul & Nialls expedition, the teams Seven Summit Challenge and their fundraising efforts can be found on their website at www.irishsevensummits.com.
The Seven Summits
Africa – Kilimanjaro
Europe – Elbrus
Australia – Kosciuszko
North America – Denali (also known as McKinley)
South America – Aconcagua
Antarctica – Vinson Massif
Asia – Everest
The highest mountain in the world outside of Asia, Aconcagua gives climbers a chance to experience a high altitude major mountain expedition without dangerous slopes or technical climbing. At almost 23,000 feet, Aconcagua is significantly harder on every level compared to Elbrus or Kilimanjaro. Being in good shape alone is not enough, and a dedicated training program for the mountain will be required for most climbers to reach the summit. The demands of a long expedition (20 days), carrying heavy packs, extreme altitude, and the cold and violent wind storms come as a shock to many. As a result, about 70% of all climbers who attempt Aconcagua will fail.