Thursday 20 June 2019

Search now a recovery operation for missing Trinity College professor on Mount Everest

Fall: Trinity College professor and climber Seamus Lawless had reached the summit on Everest early yesterday morning and was starting the descent
Fall: Trinity College professor and climber Seamus Lawless had reached the summit on Everest early yesterday morning and was starting the descent
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

The search for the missing Irish climber on Mount Everest has now been classified as a recovery operation.

Father-of-one Seamus Lawless (39), from Bray, Co Wicklow, fell at an altitude of 8,300 metres while descending from the world’s highest peak. 

Mingma Sherpa, owner of Seven Summits Treks, told RTE News that conditions descending the mountain were "very good" but that Mr Lawless appears to have had an accidental fall.

"It is a very difficult situation. We are searching for a body," Mr Sherpa said.

Seamus Lawless and Jenny Copeland on one of their earlier treks in training for the climb
Seamus Lawless and Jenny Copeland on one of their earlier treks in training for the climb

"The Sherpas were shouting for him last night but couldn't find him."

Mr Mingma confirmed to RTE that he has spoken to Mr Lawless's wife, Pam.

"She called me many times, but how do we explain the details? When the team returns, we will have more details."

"We are very sad because we have lost one of our best mountaineers. Everybody is very upset in the Himalayas,” he said. 

The 39-year-old Trinity College professor had been part of an eight-member expedition team, led by professional mountaineer Noel Hanna.

It is understood he slipped while in an area known as the Balcony after reaching the mountain's summit on Thursday morning. 

His climbing group has not yet returned to Everest base camp, so the exact details of the incident remain unclear.

Poor weather conditions are also preventing searches from being carried out, with temperatures dropping as low as -45C.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by the Lawless family, which has already raised more than €13,000.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that the Lawless family have had to set up this GoFundMe page to ask for donations,” the description read. 

“Shay achieved his lifelong dream on the morning of Thursday 15th May when he reached the peak of Mount Everest. Tragically, on his descent, Shay fell and has been missing since.  

“With the weekend upon us, we, the family of Shay, have been left with no other option but to ask for assistance in raising funds to gather a team of expert Sherpas to locate and bring our beloved Shay home to Ireland.  

“Time is of the essence in the search mission and the costs of running this mission are substantial.”

The family spokesperson added that they have received “little to no information” about what happened on Thursday morning. 

“It is our priority to locate him and bring him home and we appreciate all the support that can be offered as we face this hugely challenging situation.”

Mr Lawless had embarked on the exhibition in a bid to raise €25,000 for the Barretstown charity, which provides support for seriously ill children and their families.

Dee Ahearn, chief executive of Barretstown, has said that everyone at the charity is thinking of Mr Lawless's loved ones as the search continues.

"This is a dreadfully upsetting and uncertain time for Seamus and his family.

"Our thoughts, and indeed the thoughts of the entire Barretstown community, are with Seamus, his family and friends," Ms Ahearn said.

Mr Lawless said when he was a child his father gave him a National Geographic map of the climbing route up the south face of Mount Everest. The map stayed on his bedroom wall as he grew up, staying there until he left for Nepal in April. 

The father of one said that he had been preparing for the challenge alongside fellow climbers from the Ireland on Everest group for four years.

"I turn 40 in July," he said in February. 

"My friends are joking that climbing Everest is my mid-life crisis."

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