Two adventurers forced to abandon their bid to become the first Irish team to reach the geographic North Pole on foot have vowed to make another attempt.
Dr. Clare O’Leary, a consultant at the South Tipp General Hospital in Clonmel, and Mike O’Shea had a narrow escape when they were caught on a cracking ice floe during their retreat.
They abandoned their 778 kilometres (486 miles) trek north earlier this month for logistical reasons when arrangements to share a supply plane with Indian and Norwegian teams fell through. They would have been left with a potential bill of between €120,000 and €180,000 to continue.
By then they had completed the toughest part of their trek, 12.4 miles from their start point in Cape Discovery in temperatures of minus 50 degrees over rough terrain.
When they decided to turn back they had already experienced four blizzards in one week.
Dr. O’Leary, a specialist in gastroenterology at the Clonmel hospital, is the daughter of Alice and Kevin O’Leary, the motor group owners from Bandon in Co. Cork who have a garage in Clonmel.
She has described as “serious stuff” the situation they found themselves in when a stationary ice field started to move, spin and break up underneath them, with only slush at some points between themselves and the Arctic Ocean.
“I had heard the clanking of ice periodically but I didn’t realise it was breaking up so close to us until we were actually in the middle of it”, she was quoted as saying.
Mike O’Shea said that if they hadn’t kept their cool and stayed on the ice blocks they could have been in trouble. They almost lost their 60 kgs (9.4 stones) sledges and nearly became separated during the ordeal.
The pair had to scramble across moving ice and water with the sledges and their boots in water, and when they got to a metre-high gap they jumped straight through onto stationary ice.
Clare O’Leary was part of Pat Falvey’s team that reached the South Pole in 2008, when she became the first Irish woman to walk to the South Pole. This month’s adventure was her third attempt at reaching the North Pole on foot.
She was the first Irish woman to climb Mount Everest and has completed the world’s seven highest summits.