Loughrea man Mark O’Malley had long harboured dreams of trekking to the Everest Base Camp.
A keen hill walker who regularly ascends the mountains of Connemara and explores the plains of the Burren, he finally made plans to do the trip, roping his girlfriend Louise Stevenson into the Nepalese adventure.
During their lengthy preparations for the fifteen-day hike, their family was struck by tragedy.
On September 21 last year, his sister gave birth to a stillborn daughter. Caoimhe was the third child of Joan and Tim Ling, also from Loughrea.
“It was devastating for us all as a family,” Mark recalls.
In the hospital, they were presented with a memory box from Féileacáin, a support group formed by parents who have endured a stillbirth or neonatal death.
“The organisation was so supportive of Joan and Tim; they even visited her workplace before she returned and had a meeting with her colleagues to talk through the best way of responding,” explained Mark.
“They are a small group but they hold support meetings around the country and organise these memory boxes which proved so valuable in remembering their little darling.”
Mark and Louise decided to dedicate their trek in memory of baby Caoimhe and raise money for the volunteer organisation.
They set up a fundraising page, expecting to raise around €500. They also set their sights on a strict training regime.
Mark took to the gym with a zeal worthy of a professional athlete in order to lose body fat, gain muscle and build up leg strength.
Over ten months he lost a phenomenal two-and-a-half stone.
“Louise is a lot fitter than me, she had to put on a stone in order to lose it again. She was eating everything I wasn’t.”
The pair flew from Katmandu to Lukla, one of the most dangerous runways in the world as it sits on a 60-degree gradient.
They joined a tour group of ten from Australia, Canada, England and Sweden. Over the 15-day journey, they walked between five and eight hours a day as temperatures dipped to minus 20 degrees, staying in hostels along the route at night.
“It was very difficult. A couple of days in the centre were really, really long. The cold and the altitude took their toll, there were nose bleeds, headaches, nausea, vomiting. We had only two showers over 15 days. It was tougher than we thought,” recalls Mark.
They climbed to a height of 5,600 metres, and the higher they ascended, the tougher it got.
“The last two-and-a-half miles took ages. You were just shuffling along on the ground yet you feel like you’re running you’re so out of breath.”
When they finally got to base camp, the staggering height of Everest was truly a sight to behold. Any secret notions of ever conquering the Himalayan giant were well and truly discarded.
“The size of the mountain is enormous. It’s beyond extreme.”
He also had to retain another secret for a while longer. Inside his backpack lay an engagement ring. “I was going to do it on the mountain but decided to keep that moment for Caoimhe. Instead I brought her to the Monkey Temple in Katmandu and asked here there on the way back.”
Of course Louise said yes and the couple has set a date for their nuptials next September.
So the trip has been a huge success in every respect. After paying the €5,000 cost of the adventure themselves, they have raised €4,158 in aid of Féileacáin, with donations from friends, work colleagues and strangers touched by their family’s story.
It has given Mark a real taste for further extreme treks and he hopes to do another one on a different summit in Nepal.
Not so his future missus. “The only trekking Louise is doing is up the aisle,” he laughs.
A Féileacáin meeting takes place in the Harbour Hotel, Galway on October 7. Contact 085 2496464.
Water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna due to burst watermain
Galway Bay fm newsroom – There are water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna this morning due to a burst watermain
The burst is in a rising main from Clifton Hill in Galway City to Tonabrucky Reservoir
The city council and Irish Water says while every effort is being made to maintain supply to as many customers as possible, the burst has caused water levels in Tonabrucky Reservoir to deplete
Houses and businesses in Knocknacarra, Barna and surrounding areas will experience low pressure and outages.
Dedicated water service crews have mobilised and repairs are underway and are expected to be completed by mid-afternoon.
Traffic management will be in place and Letteragh Road will be closed between Sliabh Rua and Tonabrucky Cross until 6pm.
Householders and businessses are being asked to conserve water where possible to reduce the pressure on local supplies and allow reservoir levels to restore.
Woman sustains serious injuries after being struck by firework in Eyre Square
Gardaí are appealing for witnesses after a young woman was struck in the face by a firework in Eyre Square in the city overnight.
It happened shortly after midnight and gardai say it’s understood the firework had been launched from close to the Tourist Information Kiosk.
The young woman suffered serious injuries and was hospitalised as a result.
Gardaí understand there was a large group of people in Eyre Square at the time and are now asking that any person who may have witnessed the incident make contact with the investigating team.
In particular Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have video footage of the incident, either on mobile phone, CCTV or dash-cam to make contact with them.
This incident comes just days after a policing committee meeting was told of increasing concern about anti social behaviour around Eyre Square.
Garda chief suggests closing Eyre Square to curb anti-social behaviour
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Closing Eyre Square at night-time was among the radical suggestions put forward by Galway’s top Garda this week – in response to claims that the city centre’s famous landmark had become a ‘no-go area’ after dark.
It comes as Gardaí confirmed that since January they issued almost 500 fines for breaches of the city’s alcohol bylaws, which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.
Responding to claims that people were afraid to visit parts of the city centre at night due to anti-social behaviour, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that the authorities might have to look at closing Eyre Square at certain times.
Chief Supt Curley also said that improved lighting and better CCTV were other tools that could be used to deter anti-social behaviour and to detect crime in the city centre.
“I’d need another five officers in there – and I haven’t got them,” said Chief Supt Curley of the requirement for more Gardaí on patrol in Eyre Square.
He was responding to a charge by former mayor of Galway, Councillor Frank Fahy, who said Eyre Square was dangerous at night. “It’s a no-go area,” he said at a City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting this week.
Cllr Fahy said that the illegal activity and anti-social behaviour in the city centre was a product of the Covid-19 pandemic and people socialising outdoors. Eyre Square was safe pre-Covid, he said.
In a written reply to the JPC, Chief Supt Curley said that anti-social behaviour issues had been ‘de-escalated’ along the city’s canals, Woodquay and Spanish Arch ‘as a result of extra Garda patrols’.
“The resulting consequences have led to crowd movement from these areas (and they) are now congregating at Eyre Square. Garda attention is concentrated on Eyre Square, however the return of students and the continued restrictions has led to increased numbers,” he said.
(Photo: a scene from Eyre Square at night this week taken from a video circulated on social media)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.