North Clare students scale Kilimanjaro's heights
By Dan Danaher
“A rollercoaster journey full of highs and lows” is how one North Clare student described the thrilling experience of climbing 19,340 feet to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, recently.
On August 23, Caoimhinn King (17), from Inagh joined six other students from Ennistymon Vocational School and three teachers for one of their most challenging charity trips.
Under the tutelage of well-known mountaineer Ian McKeever, the “North Clare Trekkers” reached the summit of Kilimanjaro on August 29.
A PowerPoint presentation on the thrills and spills of the trip will be provided by the seven students for their parents and other students in Ennistymon Vocational School in the Falls Hotel on Thursday, October 13 at 2.30pm.
While the Kilimanjaro journey is over, the fundraising continues with a race night in Murt McMahon’s pub, Ennistymon, on Friday, October 21 at 9.30pm.
Home economics teacher Oonagh Kelly, who was joined on the Kilimanjaro trip by business and IT teacher Stacey Ryan and maths and science teacher Mark Sweeney and seven students, were put through their paces by another of their teaching colleagues, Pat Hogan, who is conducted the team’s physical training.
Blood tests were also taken for the group in the advance of the trip to help devise a strict diet and eating plan laid out by well-known mountaineer McKeever.
The trekkers chosen charity is the Clare Autism Network (CAN) – a new umbrella group for two Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) groups in Clare – the West Clare Voices for Autism (WCVA) and the Ennis Voices for Autism (EVA).
All the money raised from the trip and other fundraising ventures will be used to fund extra-curricular activities in ASD units throughout the county, with the aim of giving students on the ASD spectrum improved access to extra-curricular activities including sport.
From the ecstasy of standing on the top of the highest point in the great African continent to the lows of battling with the altitude, Caoimhinn said the climb had to be the greatest journey he has, and will, ever take.
“It’s an eye-opener, showing you that anything is possible and with the great team we had, we made it look easy. Through the blood, sweat and tears of the fundraising and training, we started back in May to the last break for the summit on the day we conquered that mountain.
“Every little bit we put into this amazing journey paid off, with the greatest reward I have ever been given - the experience of climbing this mountain,” he said.
While William Winder (14), Miltown Malbay, admitted it wasn’t easy, he said the support of all the 33 people on the club including Mr McKeever and his wonderful team helped everyone through the hard parts.
Rachel Hogan (14), Ennistymon, said there was a great buzz between everyone in the group while the porters were great; they carried their bags and tents and the food they prepared on the mountain was amazing - they even baked a cake.
Síodhfra Greene (15), Miltown Malbay, insisted this unforgettable journey had changed her life forever and highly recommended this “adventure of a lifetime to everybody”.
“It was amazing to see the different landscapes as we got higher up the mountain. It was worth all the sweat and tears, because a small bit of pain is worth a lifetime of achievement,” she said.
Her views were echoed by Jack Buckley (15), Ennistymon, who stated he now knew what he wanted out of life and looked forward to more climbs and challenges in the future.
Caolann O’Dwyer (15), Lahinch, recalled every day of their exciting challenge provided a new landscape and experience.
“From lush rainforest to barren plateaus, I could see for myself why Kilimanjaro is famous for having the most diverse eco systems on a free-standing mountain.
“I can honestly say that climbing Kilimanjaro is the best thing I have done in my life to date and I would climb it again tomorrow if given the chance.
“I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who would want to take on the challenge,” he said.