The first Clare man to summit the world’s tallest mountain, literally ‘raising the flag’ for the Banner county, will arrive home to a hero’s welcome this afternoon.
It’s expected that successful Everest mountaineer John Burke (38) will be greeted with an airport fire service water-cannon salute after his flight from London arrives at Shannon at 4.15pm today.
A welcoming party, led by his actress wife and Dancing With The Stars finalist Aoibhín Garrihy, will be on hand to celebrate his homecoming after he steps off the Aer Lingus aircraft this afternoon.
Hotelier John, MD of the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point, took on the challenge, partly to fulfil a personal dream, but also to raise awareness and funds for the charity, Elevate, he and his wife have established to promote wellbeing among young people and provide encouragement to them to reach their potential and follow their dreams in life.
John and Aoibhín travelled to Nepal as part of a group of six from Co Clare on April 4th last. The team took 9 days to reach Everest Base Camp before John set off on the next phase of the ascent.
The group also included Ennisman Tony O’Loughlin, who previously travelled to Everest base camp in 2012, John’s nephew Callum Curtin, Yvonne Connellan from Kilmaley and Niamh Keogh from Ennis.
Speaking from Everest Base Camp after completing his descent last week, John said: “The descent is actually where most accidents happen the most and this is where you really have to tune into the max. I lost concentration a bit on a narrow technical section close to the top. It was about a foot wide but only a drop of 15 feet to the next ledge. But I thought if I slip here and break any bone in my leg, that’s it, I’m dead,”
“I’ve been ten years dreaming of following in the footsteps of some great Irish adventures, people like Pat Falvey, Ger McDonnell and so many more. Their stories have inspired me to take to the hills and test just how far my body and mind can go.
I was fully aware of the risks but focussed only on controlling those things I could control. All in, the trip took nearly two months in total and culminated in the final summit push, which started on May 13th and saw me reach the summit Tuesday last at 9.35am local time,” he said.
Aoibhín, who travelled to Everest Base Camp to see John off, said: “It’s been a roller coaster few weeks. We focussed on the positive all the time but we were aware at the same time of the serious risks involved in climbing Everest. I was of course anxious but also extremely excited for him, the the time had finally arrived for his dream to be realised.”
As Shannon Airport prepares to welcome John home this afternoon, Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas said: “Shannon has hosted many big homecomings over the years and this is a particularly proud one for us. It’s an incredible achievement and takes enormous commitment and will to do something like that. There’s also the risk involved so we’re just delighted to be welcoming John back. It should be a special gathering.”