40 years, Australia
A plaque honouring the Limerick climber Ger McDonnell, who died on K2 a decade ago, has been erected at the mountain’s base camp.
The memorial was placed by a Donegal man who hopes to become the second Irish man to reach the summit: Jason Black.
The Irish Red Cross ambassador has just reached K2 base camp in Pakistan ahead of his attempt to climb the world’s second highest mountain.
Kilcornan man Ger McDonnell died in August 2008 on K2, which is regarded as the world’s deadliest mountain, after becoming the first Irish person to reach the summit. He had previously climbed Everest.
And this weekend, Jason placed a plaque on behalf of the Irish people at K2 base camp in honour of Ger.
Jason expects to reach the peak of K2 on August 2, which is the ten-year anniversary of Ger’s death.
“I recently visited Ger McDonnell’s family in Limerick and they are fully backing me in the climb,” said Jason, before he departed for Pakistan.
“Ger’s mum Gertie gave me some of his precious equipment to climb with and it means a lot to me, I’ll mentally be climbing with Ger.
“I’ll be spiritually connected to him through the equipment and to some people that doesn’t make sense, but to me on a mountain where you’re alone, and it’s a big vast mountain, and you’re away from civilisation, you cling on to any small support and positive energy, and anything that makes life a little bit easier on the mountain - it gives you strength,” he added.
Ger McDonnell holding the tricolour aloft as he became the first Irish person to climb K2
Jason is a global endurance athlete who has previously summited Everest, and he holds the
mountaineering world record for the double ascent of Kilimanjaro in 22.5 hours.
The climber has previously attempted to climb K2. He made it as far as camp two in 2015, but mother nature had other plans and he had to turn back.
His previous K2 attempt will serve as great preparation over coming weeks.
“I got up as far as camp two the last time and there’s four camps before the summit, so I do know half the mountain,” said Jason.
“It makes the enormity of the climb a little bit easier to digest, the knowing of what it’s going to take the climb the thing and the enormity of the exposure that’s involved. You’re reading all the statistics before you leave Ireland - the fact that just over 300 people in the world have ever got to the top, and of course the death rate, so my knowledge of K2 from the last attempt helps break in it down in terms of knowing exactly what it is I have to tackle.”
The weather on the summit of K2 generally consists of 200-mile-per-hour winds, but for four days, the weather becomes calm on the top – “and that’s when you have to strike”.
“It’s going to call on every bit of mountaineering skill that I have in my body, not only from a skill and physical perspective, but mentally, I need to stay strong to deal with the lack of oxygen, and to try to make good conscious decisions on the mountain because if I can’t make good strong conscious decisions, then I can’t survive.
“Some people struggle to get their head around parts of the jigsaw puzzle,” says Jason, “why do you do it, why you want to climb in minus 30 degrees, why do you want to climb in an environment that has little or no oxygen, why do you want to climb in an environment that has the potential to take a life? But it’s a very humbling experience, honing and crafting my skills to be able to do it. I want to use my time on K2 to show that with self-belief, dedication, commitment, hard work and training you can achieve anything in this world.
“I’m very proud to be carrying the Irish Red Cross badge on all my clothing for the climb of K2. The Irish Red Cross has reached out to help in local communities all over Ireland on so many occasions, particularly in the last year during Beast from the East and Storm Ophelia, and I saw, first hand, the work of Irish Red Cross volunteers in my own home county during the Donegal Floods last August. I want to use my time on this mountain to raise awareness about the Irish Red Cross and the work they do - and what they actually achieve, from a humanitarian perspective, both at home and abroad.”
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