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Everest North Side Expedition: Northern Ireland Expedition
Everest 2003

Background and updates

The Northern Ireland Everest Expedition in association with the TV Production company, Extreme Production Ltd, arrived April 2nd in Kathmandu. 

Leader: Richard Dougan

Terrence Bannon
David Sharp
Jamie McGuiness

Medic: Stephen Synnott
Physio: Martin Duggan

Update 4/12/03 Chinese Base Camp: They have established Base Camp at 5000 metres. "It is incredibly cold at night with temperatures dropping to 20˚C. At this point morale is very good and the team's health is good.... apart from a few sore heads which are to be expected. The team will remain at Chinese Base Camp for at least 5 days, they will get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids and generally acclimatize all the time going over the logistics of the mountain." Extreme Production Ltd

Update: 4/14/03: "The story so far at base camp: Very unfortunately, two of the team have had to abandon the climb: Martin Dougan and medic Stephen Synnott have begun to suffer from brain swelling. It would most certainly not be safe for them to continue. The rest of the team however, are in great form, morale is very good, and they will press on." Extreme Production Ltd***

Update 4/28/2003: EVEREST TEAM SNOWED IN AT NORTH COL. Northern Ireland Everest Expedition leader Richard Dougan today called from the North Col of Mount Everest. On Sunday, David Sharp, Jamie McGuinness and Sherpa Ang Puri climbed to an intermediate camp between Camps One and Two. They both found the cold very uncomfortable, and tied their loads to old tents before heading down. David's feet were quite sore, so he is resting up in Camp One and will shortly descend to ABC for a couple of days.  Extreme Production Ltd


The Northern Ireland Everest Team has named Wednesday (21 May) as the day that they will attempt to conquer the world's highest peak.  Speaking today by sat phone from Everest's north face, expedition leader Richard Dougan announced the team's summit plan.  "David Sharp and I have just arrived at Camp Two which is at 7900 meters after the toughest climb of my life.  Having made it to here, we're now in a fantastic position to go for the summit.  Shortly, we'll be joined by Sherpas Ang Furi and Jamie McGuinness.  Tomorrow morning, using oxygen, we'll climb to Camp 3, the last stop before the summit. Then on Wednesday morning, we go for the top."

At this stage, it looks as though the summit team will be expedition leader Richard Dougan, climber David Sharp and Sherpa Ang Furi. Jamie McGuinness will provide support if required at Camp Two, while Newry climber Banjo Bannon remains at a lower camp.  Banjo's progress has been slower than the others and it is uncertain as to whether he will attempt the summit. 

The savage winds that swept away much of their tents, oxygen and equipment, have now subsided with a weather window opening up. However there is heavy snow which has been slowing the team's progress.

Beyond 7,600 metres - the summit of Everest stands at 8848m - climbers enter what is known as "The Death Zone," so called because of the serious effects of oxygen deprevation on the body. The lack of oxygen affects the lungs, confuses the mind, thickens the blood and can swell the brain.  Risks includes HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) which can be slowed by an injectable drug Dextramethadone which the climbers carry within their down suits. The team are also equipped with special clothing designed to combat the effects of frostbite.  Expedition spokesman David Malone stressed that uppermost in the minds of the Northern Ireland team is a safe return home.   "It is 50 years since Hillary and Tenzing became the first people to summit Everest, and it is ten years since our own Dawson Stelfox became the first Irishman to conquer the mountain.  But the fact that Everest has been climbed many times does not make it in any way an easy mountain.  The current Northern Ireland team's greatest concern is for their own safety, a point that is reiterated every time they pass the bodies of climbers that litter the upper slopes of Everest."  Richard Dougan added today "Just fifteen feet away from us lies the body of a Russian climber beside his shredded tent. We know the risks and we are being ultra careful."


The Northern Ireland Everest team who had not been heard from for several days have reported that they are safe and well.  They made contact this morning to say that they had come within 250 meters of the summit before being driven back by high winds and driving snow.  Speaking today by satfone from the upper slopes of Mount Everest's North Face, expedition leader Richard Dougan said "we've all safely returned to high camp after getting very close to the summit.  The most important thing is that we're healthy and that I'm happy to say that all our fingers are in place."

The last two days have seen the Northern Ireland team pushed to the limits. On Wednesday, Richard Dougan, David Sharp, Jamie McGuinness and Sherpa Ang Furi climbed to camp 3 at 8300 meters. (Mount Everest is 8848m)  They made a tent platform and camped on a very steep slope.  Then early next morning at 2.30 am, Richard and David set off in moderate snow and wind.  They cleared the First Step and reached the top of the Second Step, two rockfaces which are the final obstacles before the summit.  Just 280 vertical meters from the peak, they turned back - Richard suffering from cold hands and David having cold hands and feet as well as difficulties with his oxygen supply.  They returned safely to Camp 3 and are now working their back to Advanced Base Camp where they will be reunited with Newry climber Banjo Bannon. 

As for the future, the team members are looking at all options including a second summit attempt in the next ten days.  Their tents at camps two and three remain in place and should a weather window open up, they may try again.  

The team send their congratulations to their fellow climbers from Pat Falvey's Irish Expedition, two of whom successfully summited yesterday.  They share in Kilrea climber Hannah Shield's disappointment at so narrowly missing the summit and wish her every success in any future climbs. 


The Northern Ireland Everest team has now regrouped at Advanced Base Camp (6400m) and are deciding on their next move.  This morning (Friday), it was announced that Expedition leader Richard Dougan and climber David Sharp had turned back just 250 metres from the summit after suffering coldness in their hands and feet.  Now after examination by a doctor who has diagnosed frostbite, both Richard and David are to return to Kathmandu for medical observation.  They are both in good spirits and appear to be suffering from minor cases of frostbite. 

Team leader Richard Dougan was philosophical about his retreat from the world's highest peak. "The last few days have been the biggest challenge of my life" he said by satfone tonight.  "The summit assault brought on a uniquely scary feeling.  David and I knew we had it in us to get to the top, but high in the Death Zone is a time to listen to your head more than your heart.  No mountain is worth even a finger or a toe, something I thought about a lot as we passed the frozen bodies of climbers who had perished in years gone by." He added "I have had a fantastic time and to all those who have supported us, family, sponsors and the 120,000 people who have followed the climb on the internet, can I remind you of just one thing... It's not over yet."   

He may be right. The other team members - Newry climber Banjo Bannon and Sherpas Jamie McGuinness and Ang Furi are currently weighing up their options and are seriously considering a summit attempt around 29 May, when a weather window is set to open. If they were to summit on Thursday next , it would be fifty years to the day since the first successful assault on Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. 


The two man Northern Ireland Everest summit team continues to inch closer to the top of the world.

Newryclimber Banjo Bannon and Kiwi Jamie McGuinness arrived Wednesday afternoon at the North Col (7000m).  They are overnighting at the Col before heading for Camp 2 (7800m) on Thursday.  Both climbers remain on target for a weekend summit attempt. (8848m) Both are feeling well and are grateful for the messages of support arriving from all corners of the globe, including in the last 24 hours emails from Canberra, California, London, New Zealand and lots of posts from Ireland.   

Not much more to report except to wish both Banjo and Jamie a safe and successful climb as they advance upwards, fifty years to the day that Hilary and Tenzing made two giants leaps for mankind.

With very few climbers on the mountain and with favorable weather conditions forecast, the team are hopeful that their summit attempt will not be hampered by other mountaineers at the last rockface before the summit, the Second Step (8600m).  Both Banjo and Jamie report feeling very strong, essential for a successful assault of the world's highest peak.  Communications with the team are working well - the Airphone Communications GPS and walkie talkie systems allow the team to keep in contact both with each other and the outside world.  The summit team are hoping to take a satfone all the way to the top.

5/30/2003 IT'S ON FOR TONIGHT!

The two man Northern Ireland Everest Team will tonight make their final push for the top of the world.  Newry climber Terence "Banjo" Bannon and New Zealander Jamie McGuinness  arrived today at Camp 3 (8300m).  They are now resting in preparation for tonight's big summit push.

Speaking by satfone a short time ago Jamie said "we're both feeling very good, very strong. Our oxygen supply systems are working well and everything is on target for the big climb tonight."  Banjo Bannon has recovered from the intestinal complaint which had threatened his summit bid. "I was right as rain this morning" said Banjo "and with the help of a good oxygen supply, Jamie and I raced up to Camp 3."

Both climbers are now sleeping, gathering strength for the push for the top which begins at midnight local time (1900 BST).  Their first obstacle is a rock face known as the First Step, which they will climb using head torches for guidance.  Then after several hours, they face another difficult ascent, the Second Step, after which they should have a clear climb to the summit (8848m).  They hope to reach the top by 0900 BST to allow them to return safely to Camp 3 in daylight. As well as Banjo and Jamie's families who are waiting expectantly for news in Newry and New Zealand respectively.

5/31/2003: CLIMBER BUG THREATENS EVEREST SUMMIT BID: The two man Northern Ireland Everest summit team have now reached Camp 2 (7800m), just 1000 vertical meters from the mountain's highest point.

Both Newry climber Banjo Bannon and New Zealander Jamie McGuinness carried heavy loads from the North Col and arrived just as darkness fell.  Both are tired after the difficult climb, and Banjo is suffering from a minor intestinal problem.  Tomorrow morning (Friday), they will assess Banjo's condition and decide whether to push for the summit, or to turn back.  

Should they decide to continue, they will move tomorrow to Camp 3 (8300m) and rest for several hours.  Then at around 1.00 am on Saturday morning, they will climb through the night, and aim to reach the summit early Saturday morning, leaving plenty of time to return to high camp in daylight.

Spokesman David Malone said "all of this however depends on the climbers' physical condition, particularly Banjo's stomach complaint.  If they are happy that they can reach the summit without undue risk to their own safety, then they will go for it. But for now, we just have to wait and see" 

Jamie McGuinness has reported that the weather is a little windy, but is confident that forecast conditions will improve.  He added that because of restrictions to their climbing permit they will not get another attempt to summit beyond Saturday morning.

5/31/2003 NORTHERN IRELAND EVEREST TEAM ON SUMMIT: Newry climber Banjo Bannon and New Zealander Jamie McGuinness have reached the top of the world.  Speaking a short time ago by satfone while standing on the summit, Jamie said "myself and Banjo have made it. It's about 7.30 in the morning time, two to three hours after sunrise and we're feeling really good"

Banjo then called out "Top of the World !" before sending his love and best wishes to his family and supporters in Newry and beyond.

They report minor frostbite in their hands otherwise are feeling no ill effects. They summited using oxygen and are now heading back to a lower camp.  The entire expedition team, led by Richard Dougan from Redrock Co Armagh, applaud Jamie and Banjo for their success and are particularly pleased that they have reached the summit so early in the day, to allow a safe descent in daylight. Let the party begin...

NORTHERN IRELAND EVEREST SUMMIT TEAM SAFE AT CAMP 3: STOP PRESS.....  Newry climber Banjo Bannon and New Zealander Jamie McGuinness having reached the top of the world this morning are now safely back at Camp 3 (8300m). After resting for a couple of hours, the pair will descend to camp 2 (7900m) and have a well earned sleep.  Speaking a short time ago by satfone, Banjo said "this has been far and away the toughest day of our lives and we're both utterly exhausted. "

The successful summit assault took a total of thirteen hours - nine to reach the top and four to descend.  At the summit they enjoyed the quietness of a calm day with clear visibility stretching far into Nepal and Tibet.  After taking a few photos they savoured the moment of their achievement, yet vowed never to return. Jamie added "if we'd known it was going to be that bloody difficult, we'd have stayed at home.  But I'm glad we did and we promise that we'll never go near the top of Everest again !" 

Expedition leader Richard Dougan (26), who narrowly missed the summit last week when high winds forced him to turn back just 250 metres from the top, paid tribute to his two climbers while recovering from frostbite in Kathmandu "I am so emotional at the moment" said Richard.  "I'm so proud of these guys. we were such a small low budget team yet against all odds we managed to put two of our members on top  - plus the weather this year has been so bad - incredible!"  Richard added "I knew it deep down that we would succeed - there's been a huge team effort by us all. I cant wait until they return to Kathmandu on 5th June - there sure is going to be a huge party !"

Supporters are putting up flags in Banjo's home town of Newry Northern Ireland, where celebrations are set to last all weekend.  Jamie has received many message of congratulations from friends all over the world, particularly his native New Zealand.  The pair were especially heartened to receive a message of goodwill from Dawson Stelfox, the first Irishman to summit Everest exactly ten years ago.



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