South Tipp students and staff set to climb Kilimanjaro

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

A group representing VEC schools throughout South Tipperary is preparing for the trip of a lifetime this summer when they will climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

The 20-strong group, comprising staff and students, will be headed by Fionnuala McGeever, the VEC’s Chief Executive Officer, and will use the climb to raise funds for Aware, a voluntary organisation that provides support to depression sufferers and their families.

The VEC signed up for the trip when Ian McKeever, author, adventurer and broadcaster contacted the CEO in February and offered staff and students the chance to become involved in the Climb of Kilimanjaro 2011 Schools Project.

The group that will attempt to scale Africa’s highest peak, which rises 5,882 metres from the base, will travel over two trips from June 27-July 6 and August 22-31.

The participants are teacher, David O’Brien; care worker Brigid Ryan; students Karl Haugh and David O’Connell, representing St. Joseph’s School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel; Etain Ryan, a student from St. Ailbe’s School, Tipperary Town and Kerrie Ann Cleary, a student from Comeragh College, Carrick-on-Suir.

The group includes three students from Colaiste Dun Iascaigh in Cahir – Kieran King, Michaela Peters and Ashlee Hally - while the following will represent Scoil Ruain, Killenaule – teacher Leah McNamara; students Aodhan Maher, Luke Mullally, Keith Hickey, Killian Skorka, James Hindley and Amanda Da Silva; and Special Needs Assistant Sinead O’Neill and her 11 year-old daughter Sarah, who will make history by becoming the youngest girl to climb Kilimanjaro.

Luke Mullally is a member of the Tipperary Under 17 hurling development squad and has decided to take his hurley and sliotar along with him to teach the locals about the sport. He is also hoping to puck a ball at the top of Kilimanjaro and perhaps set a new record.

As CEO of the VEC, Fionnuala McGeever will be entering into the spirit of the climb by participating along with her sister, local business woman Orla Sheehan.

The group are training both on an individual basis in local areas such as Slievenamon and Galtee walks; and as a group under the watchful eye of Ian McKeever in locations such as The Lug and Glendalough in Wicklow and the Galtee Mountains. They have been given a strict diet and training plan, which will have them prepared for the climb.

Last weekend’s training session in Glendalough was filmed by RTE and will be shown on the Nationwide programme on Monday, 13th June at 7pm. Fionnuala McGeever was among those interviewed for the programme.

The participants will follow the Lemosho route up the mountain, which will take 8 days in total. It will take six and a half days to reach the highest peak at Uhuru, and a day and a half to descend to the Mweka Gate. They will be camping out in temperatures as low as -20˚C as they make their way up the mountain and will have to acclimatise to different altitudes during the climb.

The group will be raising money to cover their costs, which include flights, travel vaccinations, blood tests, trekking equipment and most importantly a substantial donation for Aware. Funds raised will go to Aware Tipperary and will be specifically used to fund Teenager Support Groups; the Helpline and Greater Suicide Prevention Education.

Donations may be made by calling to the VEC Head Office, Western Road, Clonmel (tel. 052-6121067).