Our Hiking HeroesOn Wednesday the 12th of January I had the pleasure of interviewing three of our very own inspirational students here in Ardscoil RathIomghain. Jack Hennessey, Shane Dunphy and Neil Mockler all made the amazing journey up Mount Kilimanjaro,Tanzania in Africa late last year. In my interview Neil, Jack and Shane answered many questions about their experience of climbing the 5,895 metre mountain. Their journey began on the 27th of October 2014. Shane had made this same journey previously with his Father in 2013 and was extremely excited about the prospect of making it to the top this time alongside his school friends. For both Neil and Jack it was a totally new experience, they were inspired to apply for the adventure when a guest speaker 'Ian McKeever' spoke to our school about the incredible opportunity the previous year. A large number of students would love to embark on this journey so the boys were well aware of how lucky they were to secure a place this year. In preparation for the expenses of the trip the boys planned many charity events including a Waxathon, Bingo nights and a concert. In total they raised €3,000 each.In order to prepare for the actual climb they went hiking once a month to many of our own beauty spots here in Ireland. They enjoyed Glendalough and Slieve Bloom particularly. Shane’s Dad accompanied them on these trips.Jack told us that they found a vast difference between their training hikes and the actual hike up Mount Kilimanjaro which was so much harder, harder than you could ever imagine. With all the training out of the way the boys jumped aboard their flight full of excitement. It was a long flight. They flew from Ireland to Istanbul which took six hours and then from Istanbul to Tanzania which took a further fourteen hours. The car journey to the lodge which was about four hours from Mount Kilimanjaro was the last stage of their journey . On arrival ,even though shattered from the journey , nothing could dampen their enthusiasm and excitement for what lay ahead. After just one days rest at the lodge they made their way to the base of the mountain and their hike began.They climbed for two and a half hours that first day.Amongst their group were two doctors who took over for Ian Mc Keever the founder of "Kilimanjaro achievers " Ian had sadly lost his life on the mountain itself in 2013.
That first night the boys slept in tents in one of the camping sites that were already set up for them around the mountain. It was desperately cold with temperatures dropping down between minus three and minus ten degrees. The lads wore every bit of their clothing to try and keep warm. Apart form the cold they also found the altitude made life on the mountain quite tough. It was on day two that the serious hiking began. Porters carried the extra gear so the hikers only had to carry what they needed for that day. In terms of clothes Jack mentioned how he wasn't expecting the type of weather they received. He had no rain gear with him and no sunglasses and so he found the rainforest type conditions very trying. Shane chatted about the type of food they had on offer "We ate a lot of soup, we had our own chef called Lulu, and he was one of the porters. He cooked for everyone. The boys battled nausea and headaches , fatigue and rain and eventually made it to the summit. When asked what it felt like Jack said " To be completely honest I was too tired to take any pictures and take it all in, in fact most of the pictures at the top were of me sitting down but it was such a relief to be there. I also felt proud of myself." Neil commented on how the atmospheric pressure limited their time at the top and encouraged their decent but they were so proud of their achievement. Shane explained how that was only half the battle as coming down was even harder.Jack said "it was hard work but worth it. The highlight of the trip for me was the mornings, getting up and waking up to tribal song and dance with which we all joined along in, I thought it was a great laugh. "
Once back at their lodge the lads made contact with home. Everyone was naturally delighted to hear from them.Shane left Africa that night with his Mum who had been doing charity work there at the same time but Jack and Neil stayed on for a few days to visit some schools and orphanages which they both agreed was also an incredible and moving experience.On his return Shane was recognised locally for his incredible achievement . He got a civic award from the Local county council . He was also interviewed by the Irish independent newspaper and was named as the first male and second person in Ireland with Cystic Fibrosis to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. What an achievement!! We are all so proud to know Shane and have such an inspirational pupil amongst our school community. All three boys are in fact the very embodiment of our school motto "Achieve,Respect and Develop" By: Alanna Mc Loughlin