Dubliner (28) looking to become youngest Irish person to climb the seven summits as he leaves for Mount Everest

Tom Cleary on top of Denali, Alaska in May last year

Amy Donohoe

A Dublin man is hoping to become the youngest Irish person to climb the seven highest mountains on each continent as he leaves for his final summit, Mount Everest.

Tom Cleary (28), from Milltown, was big into rugby and football at school, but injuries meant he played his last rugby game in 2016.

“I still had an itch inside me, I didn’t know if it was competitiveness or to be part of a team, I didn’t know what it was,” he said.

“I got my brother and my cousin to do Kilimanjaro with me in 2017. I found a replacement for those team sports and the rest is history.

“The plan was to climb the seven summits, the tallest mountain on each continent in accordance with their difficulty, and finish with Everest.

“I’d like to think that I’ve built up a huge arsenal of mountaineering skills and experience.

“I climbed a mountain in Alaska last May. When I did it, I said never again, but when months and weeks pass by, your mind blocks out the bad and you only remember the good bits.

“On the coldest days on the mountains, you’ve no energy, it’s the highest you’ve been altitude wise, you’re tired and it’s just you.

“You can only hear your breath, your mind is coming up with some lucrative ideas to turn around.

“I focus on trying to keep going, I’ve almost fallen victim to turning around, but thankfully I didn’t and now I am where I am.

Tom Cleary at Dublin Airport yesterday as he heads for Mount Everest

“I’ve been on a 12-month training plan with two coaches for my Mount Everest expedition. It’s a combination of endurance, similar to how an iron man would be training and combine that with gym.

“On top of that, I’m sleeping in altitude as well, I’ve a home altitude system, it’s basically a tent that goes over the bed and you stimulate an altitude environment.

“As the weeks and nights go on, you increase the height you sleep at. You can imagine that was difficult for my girlfriend sharing the bed, she’s as much a part of this as I am,” he added.

Tom said goodbye to his girlfriend at Dublin Airport yesterday evening, he is thankful for her and to all his friends and family for their support and belief in him.

“Saying goodbye was the hardest bit, it was harder than any summit, saying goodbye for eight weeks,” he said.

“It’s been on the horizon for the last year and now the countdown is on for when I’m back.

“My family are totally excited for me, they’re my biggest fans. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them behind me.

“Before you leave it’s extreme excitement and when you’re on it, you hate it when you’re there, but you love it afterwards.

“The pain you endure on the mountain, both physically and mentally, you really do go through it.

Tom during his Denali climb last year

“I don’t know if it’s an Irish thing, but we love to get caught up with the negative. We’re watching these shows on TV, it’s in our nature to focus on the negative aspects of these big high mountains.

“Everest has a very low death rate, it’s actually one of the safer mountains statistically. But it gets a bad reputation.”

Tom is ready for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and he can’t wait to come back and celebrate.

“I’m focusing on what I can do at the minute, what I can control and not control. I don’t hit base camp until April 17,” he said.

“I’m going to give my body the best chance of acclimatising and from there, I’ll focus on the bigger task.

“Please God I summit safely and get back down safely, if and when that happens. I haven’t drank in about five months, so I’m looking forward to a couple of bevvies when I get home.

“I’ve a bottle of my whiskey in my bag and I’ll have that at base camp. Hopefully when I get down, it’ll be waiting on some glacier ice.

“I’m sick of training now and I’m ready to get going,” he added.