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No mountain high enough for our pals

THERE ain't no mountain high enough for a group of Dublin Airport firefighters and police as they embark on the challenge of a lifetime this weekend.

The 20-strong group will attempt to climb the 18 highest mountains on the island of Ireland in just 62 hours, taking them through 17 counties, all four provinces and a travelling distance of 1,800 kilometres.

The event, which starts today and ends on Sunday, is in aid of the Beaumont Hospital Foundation.

Mountain leader Brian Dempsey (40) told the Herald: "In September of 2009, I received a phone call from one of our colleagues. He asked me if we could organise an event to try and raise money for Beaumont where he was receiving treatment for cancer.

"It has since come to attention that at least 12 Dublin Airport Authority staff are receiving treatment at the hospital.

"It was decided that we would try to do something that has never been attempted before," said Brian, who works as a firefighter.

Following months of training, the epic challenge will get underway on Friday at 4am. The combined height of the challenge is 55,400ft, which is almost twice the height of Mount Everest.

"Training for this event started straight away, which involved not only gym work at least three times a week but also many days in the mountains all around Ireland over the winter months, with snow up to waist-high at times, and it has continued through the spring and summer so that we are now well prepared for what lies ahead," said Brian.

He said that all the training is really paying off now.

"It's a very dedicated group," he said.

However, there is no doubt that it will be a gruelling endurance event.

"There is no real sleep, apart from sleeping on the bus.

"We will be doing night-time climbs. We have all the proper lighting gear," said Brian.

And he added that the five-member support team is very experienced.

The challenge begins with a drive from Killary Harbour to Delphi in Co Mayo, and the subsequent climbing of Maol Reidh. And it is intended to finish in the Gap of Dunloe in Killarney by Sunday evening.

The group are hoping to raise as much money as they can for the Foundation, and have already been collecting towards their goal on the streets of Dublin city and at Dublin Airport.

See details of the event at www.firefighterschallenge.ie.