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07 Jul 2022

Ryan's Bloody Paws Challenge: “There was one of the tea houses that was literally like a horror house at night time”

Ryan's epic Island Peak adventure for Dundalk Dog Rescue

Ryan's Bloody Paws Challenge: “There was one of the tea houses that was literally like a horror house at night time”

Ryan trekking his way to the top

“I don’t know if you saw the plane I got over on but that airline only has three or four planes that are very old and the other day it popped up on my Facebook saying that one of the planes had gone missing, and then on Monday it was found crashed into a mountain with 22 on board dead.

“It gave me a real jolt and made me think maybe I really was doing something ridiculous.”

Ridiculous or not, trekking to Everest Base Camp and then attempting to summit the 6,160 m Island Peak Mountain is definitely not something usual or without its perils, but it didn’t deter Ryan Doherty from Ravensdale who undertook the challenge in aid of Dundalk Dog Rescue, raising over €10,000 in the process.

While disappointed with falling short of reaching the top by an agonising 200 metres due to conditions and sickness in his climbing group, Ryan is philosophical about his adventure and much like the plane story, takes it all in his stride.

“It taught me how far I can push myself and not to be always doubting myself… people have been saying that I should be so proud and I’m just very chill about it.”

The trip began with Ryan flying to his starting point nine days trek from Everest Base Camp travelling via Doha and Kathmandu.

“From Lukla to base camp it's ten days of trekking. There are a few different trading villages along the way. The Nepalese are lovely people. You could have the craic with them but it was good to have Irish people in the group because you were all going through it together.”

Almost immediately Ryan was met with a stark reminder of the scale of the task before him.

“On the way up there's headstones as a memorial to people who have died on the mountain and whose bodies are still up there. You see names like Scott Fisher whose story was in the movie Everest and the Irish man Seamus Lawless, his body has never been recovered, he fell through an ice balcony.

“I was buzzing the whole way up and the thought of doing Everett crossed my mind because you’re in such a good state thinking maybe I could try one of these and passing all that just grounds you.

“On the way up we’d stay in tea houses, tea house makes it sound really nice but it's kind of just a room for dinner but then the rooms are just four corners of plywood and then your bed is just a sheet of plywood elevated off the ground and then you sleep in your sleeping bag and it's definitely not luxury because the temperature plummets at night.

“There were ten of us in total climbing along with our guides and we got to Everest Base Camp on the 10th day.”

By now Ryan was starting to realise that things were getting serious.

“I’d say fairplay to anyone who even just does the trek to the base camp because it's a long haul. I think some people sign up to it and don’t even put a lot of thought into what they’re doing because we saw several teams being evacuated.

“There was one of the tea houses that was literally like a horror house at night time because you could hear people screaming and coughing and crying and the next day three helicopters came to evacuate the teams.

“My trick was just to go as slow as possible … The slower you go the better working at high altitude because it gives time for your heart and your brain to adapt.

“We left Everest base camp on the 10th day and we made camp that night and then got up at 4 the next morning and summited another mountain there called Kalapathar, and we got to see the sunrise over Everest which definitely was a once in a lifetime opportunity and was well worth it.”

Ryan then spent a few days getting to Island Peak low basecamp where he and his group went over some basic mountaineering skills before moving on to Island Peak high camp where he got a lesson in high altitude hydration .

“We were woken up at 2am the morning after we got to highcamp and given a bit of food and water and I was asked if I wanted tea or hot water and I said just tea please and he handed me a glass and I looked into it and said no I wanted just water this is brown, and he told me that yeah, it was water.

“There is no water up there so whatever water we got came from the snow and it had sentiments and everything floating in it but once it's boiled you’re grand and in my life I’ve probably drank worse than that.

“We hiked for about two hours and then we came across a scramble which is all loose rocks and you're kind of just using your hands and your feet and wedging them into the side of the walls to spring yourself on to the other side of the walls.

“You pull yourself up to one rock and then you're out of breath and can only afford to take one or two steps before you have to stop and take a few deep breaths again, for every one breath you might take two steps.

“It was snowing hard enough at this point and it was a bit windy but we decided to just keep going and see how we got on.

But then when we got to the last scramble it was a bit ropey and there was a whole confusion about what was going on and the sherpas said some of us could probably make it and others couldn't because they were really starting to feel the effects of altitude.

“So ultimately we didn't want to split up the group because we’d lose a couple of sherpas and if some went ahead and something happened it wouldn’t be good.

“When the wind and the snow really starts to come in and if the sherpas are telling you that it’s too dangerous to go up then you listen to them because this is their territory not mine.
it's not like I’m out in the Cooley mountains. I'm a good bit higher now,” Ryan laughs.

“So the decision was made to go back down and it was heartbreaking to hear that because you're 200 meteres short.”

But it was at this point that things got even more ropey for Ryan and his group as they made their way back down against the traffic coming up and with blizzard like conditions setting in.

“At this point the scramble points were covered in snow so it was hard to see where you were putting your foot so we had to repel down a fixed line by your hand, and that was just ridiculous, I eventually got down but could feel my footing go a few times.

“I saw other people in my group come down and the rope slid right through their hands and they just fell five or six metres and they were landing on rock which isn't ideal.

“When we got back down to the tent I could barely find it because it was so covered in snow so I had to scoop it off and then that night you could hear lads coughing and it was this horror night again and then the next morning people were getting sick.

“A lot of people had Acute Mountain Sickness and cerebral edema, their brain was swelling so Johnson, our doctor, came in and was puking up.

“All these treks and expeditions they’re not nice I think it takes a real state of mind to put yourself into these situations.

“He ended up being injected with dexamethasone which is a glucose steroid which stops the brain from swelling and delays the AMS setting in and the decision was eventually made that we had to evacuate because of them being too sick.

“Obviously coming down everybody was disappointed out of the whole group. There were probably about four of us who could have made it but at the end of the day we’d be taking away sherpas and valuable resources that these other people need to survive.”

Having survived the worst of the sickness while on the mountains it was when he arrived home that Ryan began to feel the effects of his endeavour.

“I was raring to go when I was up there but it was when I came home that I was the sickest that I’ve ever been,

“You’re in that flight or fight the whole time, and you’re constantly in fight the whole time and stressed.

“Your diet plays a big part too because you're eating so clean over there it's all stuff like lemon tea and no dairy and I'm a celiac too so that was another challenge i was eating just rice and that's a mental thing too of eating the same 3 meals every day for 4 weeks.

“I put on almost 10 kg for this trek and I lost all of it, if i hadn't put all that weight on I would have been really struggling.”

But now back home Ryan has recovered from the worst of his illness and is already thinking of the next challenge.

“Myself and my girlfriend are lookin at Mont Blanc next year.

“And then after that there's Aconcagua in Argentina which is I think about 6,700metres and it's one of the 7 summits of the world so I’d love to do it.

“I wouldn't mind but before I went I was saying this is me now I’m not doing anymore but as soon as I got down I was thinking of where I’m going next.

“My mother will probably read this and absolutely batter me because she’s always telling me no more,” he laughs.

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