Wednesday 24 January 2018

Derek scales new heights

Naul man scales Kilimanjaro as part of quest to climb seven highest summits

A Fingal adventurer, financial expert and GROW mental health ambassador has returned to Ireland after successfully scaling Mount Kilimanjaro as part of his bid to climb the world's seven highest summits.

55-year-old Derek Mahon from the Naul had never attempted climbing a mountain six years ago.

In 2014, Derek became the only Southern Irish person to summit Mount Everest.

Last month, he successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro and he is now preparing for his next climb - Aconcagua in South America in February.

Derek is undertaking the seven highest peaks challenge in support of the community-based mental health charity, GROW, which promotes positive mental health and recovery. GROW holds over 120 free peer-support meetings across Ireland each week, along with community education, workplace, carer and young adult programmes.

Situated in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is 200 miles and three degrees south of the Equator, and is Africa's highest mountain, standing at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet. The summit success rate is 60%, with the climb covering a range of climates and terrain including rainforest, heath zone, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers.

Derek commenced his Kilimanjaro climb, trekking for five hours through equatorial rain forest to the Mandara Huts, located at some 2,720 metres. This was followed by a further five-hour, 1,000 metre climb the following day to Horombo Huts through alpine forest terrain.

'It was dull, grey and wet. Not at all comfortable or expected given Kilimanjaro is only four degrees from the Equator. Having spent only one night at Horombo - where most take an additional day for acclimatisation before heading higher - we left for Kibo at 4,720 metres.

'This took five hours and, for the first time in days, we enjoyed some sunshine and warmth as we trekked through alpine desert to pre-glacial and volcanic desert before reaching Kibo mid-afternoon. We ate and rested and decided to depart for the summit at 2am. The rest of camp left at midnight,' explained Derek.

'We summited at 6.45am having passed many of the 'midnighters' enroute. We saw six people turn around and believe many more did also. Beyond Stella and Gilman's Point, the summit beckoned. We pushed on as best we could to reach the summit for sunrise which was magical. I was delighted to have reached my third summit of my seven summit challenge,' he adds.

Derek and his team remained on the summit for 30 minutes before descending again to Kibo.

'Having eaten, we discussed another attempt at the summit, at sunset, but one of our team members had picked up an injury and with the weather forecast predicting high winds and snow and, also a death of an Englishman near Kibo, we decided against another summit attempt and descended to Horombo for the night.

'We departed Horombo early next morning with the aim of passing through Mandara and onto Kinapa which generally takes six to seven hours. We were at Kinapa in three hours 35 minutes! It was great to be back off the mountain and looking forward to a beer, sometime to eat, a warm shower and a soft bed without any mice!' explained Derek.

Back on home soil, Derek reflects on his latest mountaineering venture.

'I did feel tired and stiff but I was satisfied that I had travelled, I'd climbed and summited and I was home with all fingers and toes intact and uninjured. Over breakfast at home, my wife Michelle and our two boys discussed Africa, the climb, Kilimanjaro and of course what's next. The excitement has begun again as we discussed my next climb.'

Derek has resumed running, walking, cycling and gym work. From December, his training will increase to twice a day to ensure he is both physically and mentally prepared for Aconcagua in February.

Addressing his motivation to take on the dangers and challenges of the world's highest summits, Derek says he is a firm believer in 'dreaming, believing and achieving'. He is a true advocate of the importance of never giving up and maintaining a positive mental attitude.

Speaking about climbing in support of GROW and positive mental health, Derek highlights how GROW implements a 12-step programme, helping people to journey step-by-step to mental health recovery.

'GROW is all about breaking isolation, fostering social connection, shared experience and weekly support meetings based on practical steps and recovery. Mental health, wellbeing and ongoing support are vital to us all. I am very proud to be promoting GROW and GROW's message of positive mental health and recovery.'

CEO of GROW, Michele Kerrigan, has commended Derek on his 'amazing achievement' and his fantastic endeavours in promoting GROW.

'In GROW, we emphasise that every journey towards mental health recovery begins with a single step. Derek's amazing achievement in scaling Kilimanjaro emphasises the importance of hope, belief and encouragement.

'GROW's Recovery Programme prepares people to take small, but very significant and practical steps towards achieving their ultimate goal of personal recovery. For many, recovery from mental health difficulties begins with a single step.

'At GROW, ongoing peer support, shared experiences and personal testimonies provide inspiration in helping others journey towards recovery. We are delighted that Derek has chosen to be an ambassador for GROW and to help us in promoting our message of positive mental health, recovery and wellbeing.'

To support Derek in his seven summits venture and to raise funds for GROW, visit the Everydayhero website and search for Derek Mahon, Adventurer - (

Details can also be found on the GROW website - and @GROWIreland Facebook page.

Fingal Independent

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