The first Clare man to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain will return to Ireland on Monday to a hero’s welcome.
Speaking today from Everest Base Camp, hotelier John Burke (38) said reaching the top of the world has been a fulfilment of a dream but was not without its terrors.
Following the successful assault on the mountain on his first attempt, John said that he could see the fear of death in climbers’ faces as they witnessed corpses of those who had tragically lost their lives there previously.
He said that he’s still trying to take in the achievement but is looking forward to returning on Monday into Shannon Airport where a large and vocal welcoming party will be led by his wife, actress and Dancing with the Stars finalist Aoibhín Garrihy, before they return to the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point, for further celebrations.
John 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.
“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,” John Burke said.
“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.
The final night was hell on earth, as I witnessed casualties of the mountain first hand, passing the first body soon after setting off. I could see the fear of death in the faces of some people close to me. At one stage I had to intervene with a Romanian who seemed to have summit fever, an inability to make a rational decision about turning back,” he 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,” John added.
John’s wife Aoibhín, who travelled to Everest Base Camp to see him 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.”
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 on Monday. It should be a special gathering.”