independent

Saturday 23 February 2019

Bare chested Reek climb raises over €2,000 for charity

John McKeown with his sons, Michael, John and Jason
John McKeown with his sons, Michael, John and Jason
John McKeown with his wife Jackie and sons, Michael, John and Jason

Margaret Roddy

Louth man John McKeown says he will remember Christmas Day 2018 forever as that's the day he climbed Croagh Patrick clad in his shorts and hiking boots.

The Collon resident undertook the challenge to raise funds for mental health charities, 3Ts Turn the Tide of Suicide and A Lust for life.

The father to three, who follows the breathing techniques developed by Dutch man Wim Hof to endure extreme cold, decided to embark on this unusual challenge on Christmas Day to help raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

John's Christmas Day started at 8am with five rounds of breathing exercises followed by his daily cold shower.

With his Dundalk born wife Jackie as driver and sons Michael, John and Jason, they set off for the west of Ireland.

'The morning was clear with a breeze blowing but not too cold,' he says. 'As we left Westport we could see that the summit of Croagh Patrick was covered in mist. We hoped that it would be clear by the time we arrived at the top so we could see the islands in Clew Bay.'

After taking a family snap at the bottom, John stripped down to his shorts and boots, and embarked on the trek with his sons, who were fully clothed, while Jackie went to Christmas Day mass.

'I was surprised at how many people were climbing Croagh Patrick that day,' says John. A few had heard why he was climbing in his shorts and gave money to the charities.

As they ascended the mountain, John says 'a strong wind from the east cooled my body down quickly so I had to concentrate on the breathing method.'

They made it to the top in about 1 hour and 20 minutes and had a cup of coffee from a flask and a homemade mince pie while waiting for the mist to clear so that they could appreciate the view.

Peeping in though the window of the chapel, they saw a large statue of St Patrick and marvelled at how people had carried it up over such rough terrain.

'My thoughts went to my loved ones and friends who are no longer with us and to those whose hearts are broken due to mental health issues and suicide, especially at Christmas time.'

The climb down is notoriously tough but they made it down in an hour, where Jackie was waiting to greet them.

They arrived back home in Collon by 6pm in time for Christmas dinner and not surprisingly, John was fast asleep by 9.30pm.

'It was a very special day for me and one that will stay with me forever,' says John. 'I am blessed to have been able to share this experience with my three sons and with the support of Jackie.'

So far he has raised over €2,000 for his chosen charities.

The Argus

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