When we consider the context by which we judge a hero? what criteria should we use? Is the hero perhaps simply best contextualised after all in the eyes of the beholder??…
For me the evaluation was always quite simple…A hero is someone we can all admire without apology!
Some of my examples include Michael Johnson the greatest runner I’ve ever seen run Id even have him above Meers Bolt et al because his work ethic was to my mind the best I’ve known… Andre Agassi, J McEnrow both for contrasting reasons the game needed them both but their driving motivations were very different. One yearned to come back from the dead to find funds to support his work with disadvantaged kids in the Vegas area the other simply yearned to be the best that he could be…Borg was his Yang and when he retired early the spark slowly died in Mc Enroe.
As I sit here in Arusha reflecting on whats been a tough but rewarding season climbing on Kilimanjaro I reflect back on so many things:
Our trips to dates were all for teenagers (11-18 in fact) a chance to show them what’s possible when we place 1 foot in front of the other and face life’s great challenges step by step and in the moment.. I think about the many heroes we have forged out here for the future those that overcome a range of great obstacles (their health/their difficult upbringing/their lack of confidence etc) to take their place at the great summit on Africa’s highest peak…
These students now realise or will soon 3 great life lessons:
- That we are not judged by the things that go wrong in our lives but simply by how we chose to react when they do…
- That the things we cannot do should never interfere with the things that we can
- Life really only begins when we step out of the comfort zone!!
And so in the process over 200 of them made it and they set anew record for the largest group to ever summit ably assisted on the way by parents/teachers and a wonderful medical team put together by our med advise Dr P Sheeran. We have the best health & safety protocols in the world and for that we are truly grateful.
Another hero of mine comes in fact from the world of climbing. He was Irish and the greatest ever climber that this country ever (and may ever) produced. Define greatness I hear you ask? Well in our world in the mountains some of the most technically talented climbers fall down, quite literally over their own egos. They lack humility, compassion and empathy three vital components if you ever want to be truly great at anything in this life…
Ger Mc had it all and some! Even the climber that put our country on the climbing map the great P Falvey will readily admit that what Ger possessed was very special indeed. He saved so many lives on so many mountains (including Pat’s on Everest in 2003) that its difficult to have to say that he died that very same way saving others. K2 2007 He gave his own life so that 3 others might live. He could have lived. He could also have led that same fateful expedition but chose not to in the interests of the team and his Dutch climbing colleagues…You can read more about the amazing Ger in ‘The Time is now’ written brilliantly and detailed courageously by his brother in law Damien O’Brien.
For my part I want the world to remember him in the following way. That of a man that took the time to honour my simple achievement of the record for the 7 summits in the fastest time in 2007 ahead of his own great challenge on K2.
10 years ago we started an idea that would catch fire and become the single biggest climbing event in my country in support of the homeless and Focus Ireland. The 4 peaks challenge asked climbers to scale the 4 highest peaks int he province over a 48 hour period. Simple but effective!
Now we ask as follows of those that wish to challenge themselves in ways that go beyond simple hill walking.
We are looking for 20 teams of 4 home and/or abroad to take this challenge: The Ger Mc Donnel Memorial trophy will be awarded to the winning team that can:
- Complete a bespoke 12 week training programme that will test stamina (physical/mental) team building skills/self-coincidence and most of all team capacity to be just that a team!! Done on select weekend dates (Saturdays and or Sundays or both if required) the promgramme begins next March
- Teams then move onto Kilimanjaro mountain. They will be fully prepared in advance through a comprehensive set of criteria that will include full blood work/ psychometric analysis/ nutritional programme/ proper cardio pre-training.
- Upon arrival they will each (each team captain) will take an envelope at the inaugural dinner. Each envelope will contain a challenge that the particular team must complete before the 8 day climb is complete and it msut be completed in front of all peers. The scores form these challenges will added to the scores from the 12 week programme.
- In addition on the summit night each team will decide how long they think their team will take to complete the challenge of summiting, placing their team flag at the summit point and returning safely to the lower camp.They will also decide their own start time. Each team will be guide+ porter specialist accompanied.