A Clonmel cyclist took on and conquered a challenge of
literally Everest proportions to raise money for charity.
Starting at 5 o’clock in the morning Barry Meehan cycled for more than 18 hours, until 11.15pm that night, covering a route that took him up the mountain past Tickincor and as far as Powers The Pot an incredible 21 times, with a final spin as far as Tickincor to round it all off on what was at times a wet and windy day a few weeks ago.
The height he covered during a long day in those difficult conditions was 9,200 metres - 352 metres higher than Everest’s peak of 8,848 metres.
“Since my father (Johnny Meehan, who worked in the Day Care Centre in Irishtown) died seven years ago I wanted to do something different for charity”, says 42-year-old Barry. His chosen charities were the South Tipperary Hospice - “every family has been affected by cancer at some time” - and the Asthma Society of Ireland, as both he and his 10 year-old daughter Laura suffer from that condition.
His challenge certainly fell into the “different” category, after he was inspired by someone who had both climbed Everest and cycled its height. “The first person to cycle the Everest challenge was an Australian, George Mallory in memory of his grandfather who was also named George”, says Barry.
During a 1924 expedition Mallory, an English mountaineer and his climbing partner Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine disappeared on the north-east ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. The pair were last seen about 800 vertical feet (245 metres) from the summit.
Mallory’s fate was unknown for 75 years until his body was discovered on May 1 1999 by an expedition that had set out to search for the climbers’ remains. Whether Mallory and Irvine reached the summit of Everest before they died remains a subject of speculation and continuing research.
“Tickincor is one of the best cycling climbs in the country and at 430 metres above sea level Powers The Pot is 20 metres higher than the Conor Pass in Kerry and the highest point of roadway in the Comeraghs”, says Barry. He took just three 15-minute breaks during his gruelling challenge and each time he reached Powers The Pot he stopped for a few minutes to fill his water bottle.
His average speed on the descent was a breakneck 80 kms (50 miles) per hour and 12-14 kms on the climb.
“The only person I asked to help out was my wife Ciara but the support I received from people who came out to marshal the route and cheer me on, as well as from Niall Carroll in Powers The Pot and local cyclists who accompanied me at various stages was incredible. When the weather got bad that support kept me going and it was great to have my family and friends at the finish. Although I was very tired afterwards there was great satisfaction in completing the challenge. Ciara is a teacher in Rathgormack, where our daughters Laura and Kate (8) also go to school so I didn’t want to fail on a road they travel every day”, he says. The family live in The Paddocks in Clonmel.
He has a target of raising €8,848 - a euro for every metre of Everest - and so far has collected €7,400 for both charities. “People have been so generous and I’m very grateful for their suport”, says Barry, who is well known for his previous involvement in The Worldwide Cycles store in Clonmel. He is now involved with cycling legend Sean Kelly in a business that sells a range of cycling gear and also writes a cycling blog.