By James Fogarty
A TY Roscommon teenager was delighted and proud to wear her Roscommon GAA jersey at the base camp of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
Don Egan and his 15 year old daughter Cara, from Drum, have recently returned from the Himalayas, after a fantastic and challenging 11 day trek to the roof of the world.
Cara is a Transition Year Student at Our Lady’s Bower Secondary School, Athlone. The youngest daughter of Don and Pamela, she is a huge fan of Roscommon GAA and plays with Clann na nGael GAA Club. She is also involved with Athlone Rowing Club.
Speaking to the Herald, Don said it was a life changing experience. “Cara insisted on bringing her Roscommon jersey. Just at the entrance to base camp, there is an iconic rock and that is where we had our photograph taken. I am immensely proud of her to have accomplished this.
“As I said to her ‘it’s probably the highest altitude a Roscommon jersey has ever been’. It was 5,340 metres. You have to have evacuation insurance, in case you get sick. There are helicopters going, taking people off the mountain all day long. It was a constant stream.” He explained that they booked the adventure with a tour operator.
“It starts with a helicopter ride from Kathmandu to Lukla, which is where the airport is, and then trekking for eight days to get to base camp. And then a three day journey back, 75kms in three days. There were people from their mid-twenties upwards doing it.”
Don, who is turning 58 and who is originally from the town of Athlone, said he had previously hiked in Nepal in 1991, thirty two years ago.
“I was drawn back to it. I knew I wanted to go back there at some stage but I never thought I would,” he said.
His wife Pamela broached the idea with him one day last year. “Then about two weeks later, Cara said to me: ‘I was thinking about it and if you are going, you’re not going without me’,” he said with a laugh. “That’s how it all started.” He said that they did train for the journey, but local geography played a role. “The biggest obstacle to hiking in the Midlands is finding a mountain,” he joked.
He recounted that the day after arriving at base camp, he climbed separately to 5,550 metres. “I started in the dark and it brings you up to where you can look directly over to Mount Everest at sunrise,” he said. “That was absolutely mind blowing. But it was tough, I walked up that mountain taking ten or twelve steps at a time and stopping. But once you were there, it was absolutely surreal. As far up as you are, you are still three kilometres lower than the top of it.”