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Destination: Everest

Tony ‘Locky’ O’Loughlin is in training for an attempt on Everest base camp in aid of Foundation Nepal, Cahercalla Community Hospice and LauraLynn House.  Photograph by Declan MonaghanA A team of hardy souls will be heading to the base camp of Mount Everest in October to raise funds for a number of charities

FOR most people taking on climbing in the Alps would be enough for one lifetime. But Ennis’ Tony ‘Locky’ O’Loughlin and a group of other adventurous climbers are set to take on the ultimate challenge by heading to Everest Base Camp in October.

Money raised from the climb will go towards Foundation Nepal, Cahercalla Community Hospice and LauraLynn House. Tony has been using very different mountains to Everest to help raise funds for the charities.
During training for the gruelling climb, Tony has been taking photographs of scenes from all around Clare, Kerry and Mayo that he has been selling to raise funds for the charity climb.
Tony, well known to people in the town from Brogan’s Bar, will doing on the charity climb alongside Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald and adventurer Pat Falvey. Also taking on the challenge will be Concepta and Joe Lillis, Mike Corry, Emer McCarthy, Mike Howe, Darren Ward and Patrick Kelly.
Tony told The ’Champion, “I did a charity walk about three years ago in the Alps for the Share a Dream Foundation, and there were a lot of the same crew on that. When the opportunity came up to go to the Himalayas, I said ‘yes’ straight away. It’s the trip of a lifetime, it’s not something that’s going to happen every day of the week. When this came around, it was hard to say no.”
Since getting involved with the charity walk in January, Tony has been in training and has even given up smoking. “The training isn’t really about mountain climbing, it’s really about being physically fit. Although we’ve been going out with the West Clare Hill Walkers, who would be the club behind the walk, and we’ve been in Connemara, Tipperary, Kerry and West Clare. We have walked as a group from day – one that really helps as you get a lot of encouragement from each other. You can’t do something like this without teamwork, it’s not a one-man game.”
While the seasoned climber has already been to the Alps, Mount Everest poses a more formidable challenge.
“Climbing in the Alps was great and we raised a lot of money from that. But with Everest Base Camp we are going to be up more than 17,000ft. That would be about five times the height of Carrantuohill. In the Alps the highest we would have gone would have been to 7,000ft or 8,000ft and it was all trekking back to the same place every night. But this is going up the mountain with a sleeping bag and a mat, staying in tea houses. There will be no luxuries for 14 days.
“I think that when you’re with a group and you’re looking around you and you see where you are, it will be brought back to you that you don’t need your phones or laptops every day of the week. I have a DVD of the Base Camp walk and to see what you go through is phenomenal. You go through forests, treks, glaciers, all in the one trip, which is very unusual.”
“The only thing that is frightening everybody is the altitude sickness, which you can’t train for. You can bring medication for it but you still don’t know how you’re going to react. I know from some local people who went up Kilimanjaro last year that it seems to hit younger people more than it affects older people. So how that will work with us I don’t know,” he said.
Recalling how he first got involved with these charity walks, Tony said, “Before doing the Alps, I wasn’t doing anything like this. I’d be on my feet all day at work but that would be it. Then I heard Davy on radio talking about the Alps and I thought it was for a good cause so I just texted him and said ‘count me in’.”
Since taking that first step, his life has now changed immeasurably. “You can even see it in me at work, I’m fresher. I’m walking all the time and off the cigarettes. Even when you’ve been out one night, the following day you just want to get up and go. I’m a new person.”
Even his seven-year-old daughter has taken a leaf out his book, joining him on some of his training walks. “She’s very excited about me going. She’s just done Mullaghmore and she ran up the mountain.”
Everybody taking part in the walk has to raise €3,000 for the various charities. “We’ve all had various fundraisers, I had one in Brogan’s recently which went really well. Then Darren Ward had a spinathon in the Square, Joe Lillis did a walk. There has been all sorts of different things.”
Tony is selling his photos, which he has displayed in Brogan’s as well as some shops in the town. “They are of scenery from all over Clare and a bit of Kerry and Mayo. I’m not trained in photography but that scenery is just amazing. As any good guide will tell you, appreciate it when you’re up there, don’t have your head down, it’s not a race. You’re up there to see the scenery.
“The photos have been selling really well. People who have been travelling around the county are coming into Ennis and they see them and want to buy them to remember their time here. And there are local people buying them to send to their relatives abroad.
“I’ve sold around 150 and I’m expecting to sell more. They are all mounted photos, black and white or colour prints. It’s not the kind of stuff you get in the tourist shops. The shops have been very good selling them for me, and of course Paddy and Freda at Brogan’s.
“Lots of local businesses have supported me with the fundraising night as well,” he said, acknowledging Brogan’s and his family for supporting him.
I’d like to thank everybody for the support they have given me, my family, all at Brogan’s, everybody. You couldn’t ask for any more.”
Tony plans on taking even more photographs, while heading for the Base Camp. “Hopefully, when I come back, I will do something like a calendar or a booklet to raise even more money for the charities. We will just see how it goes.”
While he will have to stop climbing once he reaches Base Camp, he hopes that one day he might continue on even farther.
“I would love to keep going, when you get that close to it. But it ain’t going to happen, maybe another time. It’s always there.”

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