Thursday 30 October 2014

Ger McDonnell Memorial Cycle honours brave mountaineer

Published 20/07/2014 | 01:27

COURAGEOUS: Mountaineer, the late Ger McDonnell

One summer’s day in 2007, mountaineer Ger McDonnell set off to post a letter for his mum. He was on a break at home from his engineering job abroad.

He borrowed his brother’s bike and set off for the local post office. It was such a nice day, Ger kept cycling – all the way from Kilcornan in Co Limerick to Doolin in Co Clare, where he posted the letter, had a pint of Guinness and a toasted sandwich and then cycled back – a return journey of some 230 kilometres.

“The ‘oul fellas in the bar in Doolin couldn’t believe he’d cycled all the way from Limerick to post a letter,” quips Ger’s friend, Professor Noel O’Connor, of Dublin City University.

That amazing journey was to form the basis of a fundraising cycle in memory of McDonnell, who died just a year later on one of the world’s most formidable mountains.

In 2008, 37-year-old Ger,  became the first Irishman to climb K2 – but died just hours later, along with 10 other people, while courageously attempting to help fellow climbers in serious difficulty.

A book, co-written by mountaineer Pat Falvey and Pemba Gyalie, a Nepalese Sherpa who was a member of that expedition, tells of McDonnell’s heroic efforts.

At his memorial service, Ger’s older brother JJ told the story of that summer’s day cycle. Says O’Connor: “A group of his friends wanted to put something in place in DCU to remember him by and we hit upon the idea of a Memorial Access scholarship.”

The programme, the group decided, would provide scholarships for students who would not otherwise be able to avail of third level education.

“There had to be fund raising, so a group of us decided to re-create a leg of Ger’s famous cycle from Kilcornan to Doolin.”

About 10 friends initially signed up for the cycle, but when the group arrived in Kilcornan to begin, they found the whole community waiting for them: “That was in 2009, a year after his death. The community embraced the cycle.” The cycle has taken place every year since.

It has raised money as intended for the DCU scholarship programme, but many charities have also benefited,  raising nearly €25,000. Artane native Niall O’Connor was selected as this year’s scholarship winner.

The sixth Ger McDonnell Memorial Cycle takes place on Saturday, August 9.

  • For sponsorship cards email claire.whelehan@dcu.ie.
  • Minimum contribution is €50 per cyclist

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