On Wednesday October, four Limerick individuals set off on a “once in a lifetime” journey to Mt Everest to raise awareness and funds for Autism Ireland.
The trip is entirely self-funded by the group, with all donations going directly to Autism Ireland.
John Mulready, Áine Fleming, Niamh O’Leary and Scott Keenan will climb to Mount Everest Base Camp and then on to Kala Patthar – reaching 5645 meters.
The group, who have been preparing for the climb since early this year, will be guided by Earth’s Edge, a Dublin-based travel company, on their expedition.
“In some ways I guess you can never tell yourself there’s a good time to go to Nepal,” laughs Scott, who works with the Fire Service in Cappamore, Co. Limerick.
“We’ve been doing a lot of training for months now, up and down the Galtees, Keeper Hill and Mt Brandon,” adds Niamh, who volunteers with Irish Red Cross.
Áine, who works in the Ambulance Service in Limerick says: “I’ve been doing a lot of running, especially hill-running, but then there’s weight-lifting and high-intensity training classes too.”
“It’s really about spending the time putting more miles on your legs, running lots and doing half-marathons and 10ks,” adds Scott.
The group will reach the highest point of their climb on October 20, before returning home less than a week later.
“After about 4000 meters you start to feel the effects of altitude, which is also part of the preparation. It’s very hard to get used to – one day it may not affect you and the next time you go up again it’ll seriously affect you,” says Niamh.
“One of the things you have to do to prepare for that is go slowly, to acclimatise. Drink lots of fluid, we’ll have to drink a minimum of five litres a day, and eat lots because we’ll constantly be burning energy.”
“We’ve been warned that your taste will eventually go – so I guess you just have to horse the food into you at that point and carry on and push yourself,” laughs Niamh.
The group have a goal of raising €10,000 for Autism Ireland, a cause which is very close to their hearts.
It was John Mulready, who also works with the Fire Service and Irish Red Cross, who decided to raise money for the charity as it is a cause he is very passionate about.
“As well as raising money, it’s also raising awareness for autism. It needs a bigger awareness, I don’t think a lot of people understand the needs of those with autism and the broad spectrum that people can fall under.
“Some have more challenging needs, and others then might not. It’s all about raising awareness of the needs of these people so they too can lead good lives and get involved in communities,” says Niamh.
“A lot of the people who have been donating generously, when you thank them they mention they know somebody with autism, such as a close family member or friend,” adds Áine.
“A lot of adults are being diagnosed now, that were missed through childhood. It can be a massive adjustment, yet if the people around them are aware of it and know about the spectrum and their needs, they can offer the person solace and help them along the way.”
“The more people talk about it the more we learn about it and understand it,” says Scott.
The group have spent the past few weeks in the run-up to their trip raising funds in the community, the response to which they describe as “fantastic and truly overwhelming”.
“The locals have been truly fabulous,” says Aine. “There’s been a lot of donations online, the support is just huge. In particular from the Fire Service, all throughout county Limerick, Cork and Tipperary – from all over.”
Today, the four will travel from Dublin to Abu Dhabi, and then on to Kathmandu. From there, they will fly to Lukla airport in Nepal and start their twelve-day climb on Friday, October 12.
“We’re beyond excited. We’ve nothing to do now for the next couple of weeks bar just putting one foot in front of the other!”
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