My mum’s death made me realise you must follow your passion, says Irish climber as he nears top of Everest

James McManus from Roscrea on a recent ascent of Aconcagua mountain in Argentina

James McManus from Roscrea on a recent ascent of Aconcagua mountain in Argentina

Niamh Horan

A Tipperary man attempting to become the first Irish person to climb Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen has spoken about the personal tragedy behind his quest.

James McManus (39) from Roscrea said he will be thinking of his mother Libby who instilled in him a passion for adventure travel before her tragic death at the age of 59.

Speaking from 4,000ft altitude in Nepal, after beginning his gruelling journey, Mr McManus described how his mother became ill while adventuring in India.

“When I am climbing big mountains I always think of my mum who passed away 12 years ago. She introduced me to outdoors and mountaineering so I always look up at the sky on a journey like this and take a nice moment and we smile at each other and share a laugh,” he said.

“My mum was the person who inspired me to get into the outdoors and I know she would want me to be doing whatever is going to make me happy.”

Speaking about her death, he said: “Mum was on one of my company’s Earth’s Edge treks in Northern India and she was crossing a 4,600m pass when she started to feel lower back pain.

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“When she returned home she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and unfortunately she died a year later after a really hard battle.

“She was only 59, she was so young, and I know my mum was never ready to die, she had so much more to live and it made me realise that life is so short.”

Mr McManus added: “I would say to other people you just never know when your opportunity to go on an adventure or do something you are passionate about could be taken away. I would encourage anyone not to wait for the right time because there is never a ‘perfect’ time to do anything in life. You just have to go for it. There is no ‘tomorrow’.”

If successful, Mr McManus will become one of just 216 people who have climbed Everest without supplementary oxygen.

Speaking about reaching the peak of Everest this coming Tuesday he said: “I will be breathing but there is so little oxygen in the air up there I will be taking one baby step, every 15 to 20 seconds.”

With no bottled oxygen to help maintain body heat, he must keep moving and so he cannot afford to get stuck behind other climbers.

“You can’t take a rest up there. If I stop or don’t move, I will die, there is no rescue,” he said.

To get himself into the right headspace the Tipperary man said the key is “not to think about the summit” until you get there, there but to “try and win each day instead.”

On the journey ahead the riskiest part is above Everest base camp where he must pass “a section of ice where there is uncontrollable danger” but he says “I am willing to run that gauntlet.

Asked if he needed to be mad to take on the challenge in the first place Mr McManus laughed: “I guess so but then I think someone who goes on a sun holiday and doesn’t take full advantage of the gift of life is mad but yeah absolutely I think I am a little bit crazy for sure.”

The adventurer plans to take a photo beside the Irish flag when he reaches the summit but reassures followers that only his footprints will stay behind, “I am not into littering,” he says.

On the greatest danger he faces, he says: “For any climber the single biggest risk on Everest is ego. When you think you can conquer or dominate something, that is when it gets dangerous. You have to be humble and respectful of your own life and that of your climbing Sherpa.”

But Mr McManus added: “I am confident I’m in a good position to do it and, if I can’t, I won't push myself.”

You can follow updates on the next part of James’s journey on his social media page ‘Earths_edge’ on Instagram or his website www.earths-edge.com


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