Just nine months after donning hiking boots for the first time, two Mid Ulster men made it to Everest basecamp and up Island Peak with the help of a seasoned friend.
And all while raising over £10,000 for three local charitable causes.
Bellaghy’s Mark Scullion, 47, and Magherafelt man Fergal Hegarty, 27, were taken under the wing of North West Mountain Rescue volunteer Eoin McKee.
At 43, Magherafelt-based Eoin has been up and down Slieve Gallion every week for the last 10 years, and last year made it to Everest basecamp.
But this year, he took on an altogether bigger challenge in training two novices to accompany him on the most difficult climbs of his life.
After nine months training, the trio set off on a three and a half week journey, that would take them within 2,000 metres of Everest’s peak.
On that journey they saw others “choppered out” with altitude sickness, took the world’s most dangerous flight to Lukla, lost stones in weight, were hit by blocks of ice and “avalanched on”, contracted pneumonia and frostnip, almost died after an abseil peg gave way, dropping them 40 feet and struggled to breath after two steps.
But it was all worth it said Eoin, as “it was just amazing to stand at that height and look round and see Everest only 2,000 feet higher”.
After arriving in the Himalayas the men trekked 60km over 10 days to Everest basecamp - 5,364m above sea level.But after that, faced another huge challenge in Island Peak.
“At that stage we were broken and ready to go home - we could have cried,” said Eoin.
“Island Peak is 6,189m to the summit. If we were on Everest we would have been seeing dead bodies. It was pretty bleak, your body stops digesting food you’re up that high - we were licking Mars bars to get the energy off them.”
As for the money they raised, businesses paid to have flags left at the mountains they climbed.
The 10k will be split between Charis, NorthWest Moutain Rescue and be used to buy public defibrillators.