Saturday 25 November 2017

'The final night was hell on earth' - Aoibhin Garrihy's husband John returns from Mount Everest to hero's welcome

John doing Clare proud
John doing Clare proud
John Burke is the first County Clare man to have successfully climbed Mount Everest
John Bourke on Mount Everest
Aoibhin Garrihy and John Burke on their wedding day.
Aoibhin Garrihy and John Burke
John Burke and Aoibhin Garrihy at the 2015 People of the Year Awards organised by Rehab and held in RTE. Picture: Robbie Reynolds
Aoibhin Garrihy with new husband John Burke on honeymoon in Myanmar. Picture: Instagram

Aoibhin Garrihy's husband John Burke is heading home after being the first County Clare man to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The 38-year-old hotelier will receive a hero's welcome when he returns to Shannon Airport on Monday.

His wife Aoibhin will lead the welcome party at the Armada Hotel at Spanish Point, which he runs, for a night of celebrations.

John, who Aoibhin travelled with to Everest Base Camp at the beginning of April, reached the summit of the earth's highest mountain at 9:45am local time on Tuesday.

John Bourke on Mount Everest
John Bourke on Mount Everest

He completed his descent on Thursday but said that the experience had not been without some challenges and tragedies.

“The final night was hell on earth, as I witnessed casualties of the mountain first hand, passing the first body soon after setting off. I could see the fear of death in the faces of some people close to me. At one stage I had to intervene with a Romanian who seemed to have summit fever, an inability to make a rational decision about turning back," he said in a statement.

John said he took on the challenge to fulfill a personal goal but also raise awareness and funds for the charity Elevate, which he supports with his wife.

“After preparing over that time on mountains around the world, I figured it was time to attempt the big one! The final plan was 12 months in the making.  I treated Everest like a work project; finding the best people to work with, breaking down the action plan into segments to enable me get to the summit of the world.

John doing Clare proud
John doing Clare proud

“I was fully aware of the risks but focused only on controlling those things I could control.  All in, the trip took nearly two months in total and culminated in the final summit push, which started on May 13 and saw me reach the summit Tuesday last at 9.35am local time."

Speaking from Everest Base Camp John said that his body went through a beating but the months he spent preparing for his expedition served him well.

“Personally, I never felt beyond my physical limits but I was certainly reaching my max. Preparation was essential, not least spending some time driving out any possibility of self-doubt and it worked well for me.  That meant not doing things like how long left or even looking at my watch as these would only fester doubts.

“It’s estimated that on the summit night alone we burn in the region of 20,000 calories.  I consumed no more than 300 and had nausea issues for three days and it effectively shut down my food consumption and liquids too. You end up feeling like your body is consuming itself, which it does anyway in the death zone above 8000 metres."

Aoibhín Garrihy accompanied her husband John Burke on his trip to Nepal where he climbed
Mount Everest
Aoibhín Garrihy accompanied her husband John Burke on his trip to Nepal where he climbed Mount Everest

Speaking today, Aoibhin said she's looking forward to welcoming her husband home on Monday.

 “It’s been a roller coaster few weeks. We focused on the positive all the time but we were aware at the same time of the serious risks involved in climbing Everest. I was of course anxious but also extremely excited for him, the the time had finally arrived for his dream to be realised.

Aoibhin Garrihy and John Burke on their wedding day.
Aoibhin Garrihy and John Burke on their wedding day.

"We even got family and friends together for a prayer service in the Armada on Monday ahead of his final push for the summit.  I’m so proud of him; it’s an incredible achievement.  Only 50 percent who try succeed but, more than anything, thank God he’s making it back safely."

The couple have been inundated with messages of congratulations and, according to Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas, Monday will be another proud homecoming at the airport. 

“Shannon has hosted many big homecomings over the years and this is a particularly proud one for us.  It’s an incredible achievement and takes enormous commitment and will to do something like that.  There’s also the risk involved so we’re just delighted to be welcoming John back on Monday. It should be a special gathering.”

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