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McKeever’s ‘infectious and positive attitude’ recalled

The late Ian McKeever
The late Ian McKeever (centre) with Johnny Oosten (left) and Pat Kearns, organisers of the Croagh Patrick Seven Day Challenge for Autism after Ian’s record 35th climb of Croagh Patrick in 7 Days from  March 11 to 17, 2011.

Mayo friends recall Ian McKeever’s ‘infectious and positive attitude’

Anton McNulty

Mayo friends of renowned adventurer Ian McKeever, who died tragically while climbing Kilimanjaro last week, expressed their shock and sadness at the news of his death.
Wicklow man Ian McKeever took part in the Croagh Patrick Seven Day in a Row Challenge in March 2011 and set a record of climbing the Reek 35 times in 80 hours. Organisers of the event described how his ‘infectious and positive attitude’ inspired all the climbers around him despite the cold and icy conditions.
Enda Lonergan told The Mayo News that he was in shock after hearing the news of Ian’s death and explained he had been in contact with the adventurer while he was on Kilimanjaro. He explained that Ian had been worried about the weather and the effect it would have on the group he was leading but said getting hit by a bolt of lightning as ‘a freak of nature’.
The two men first met while  climbing Croagh Patrick on the challenge and later climbed Kilimanjaro together where Enda said they became good friends and ‘kindred spirits’.

“I wish I had met him 20 years ago when I was 21 and instead of 41,” Enda explained. “I am still in shock to be honest because Ian became a good friend and a mentor not just in climbing but in life. He was a guy who would not bully you to do something but persuade you to do what you wanted to do. He was infectious and definitely a guy you would want to be in your company.
“I would consider myself a glass half full guy but Ian’s glass was always full. He believed it was full all the time and he would get the most out of life.”
Enda said he only took part in the Croagh Patrick Challenge to raise money for Irish Autism but after meeting Ian he started to take it seriously and was due to go climbing with Ian in Argentina later in the year.
When they climbed Kilimanjaro they raised €10,000 for the charity and he said Ian was instrumental in raising the money.
“I was fortunate at the time because there was only four of us on the climb after a group had to cancel and we formed a close bond. We had a blast and made friends for life. Unfortunately we lost one the other night.”
The one thing that Enda says he will take from Ian was his positivity and that if the school children he climbed Kilimanjaro with take ten per cent of his attitude, ‘they will have a good life’.
“Believe me when he was taking part in the challenge on Croagh Patrick, he was going through the pain barrier and back again but he always had a smile on his face. I did it 15 times with him and it was 14 times too many. I did my fair bit of whinging but every morning you’d meet Ian and again at night he had that positivity in his face. Every time I climb now I will always think of Ian,” he said poignantly.
Pat Kearns who is one of the organisers of the Croagh Patrick Challenge said he and his fellow organisers will be forever grateful for all Ian did for them. Pat described Ian as a modern day adventurer who was a regular visitor to Mayo and was at ease while climbing Croagh Patrick. They first met in 2010 when Ian was a guest at their end of year awards night and was eager to get involved and do something for the charity.
“Ian was a gentleman and was eager to do something for our event and was amazed that there was not more said about it. He was with us in 2011 when there was snow in March but he kept going and he was an inspiration for the climbers. Our climbers range from different levels of fitness but he would always say the right words at the right time,” Pat recalled.
Students from both Davitt College and St Joseph’s Secondary School in Castlebar were fortunate to be able to climb Kilimanjaro with Ian and this year students from Rice College in Westport were also going to accompany him.
Joe Corcoran who was helping to organise the trip explained that he only met Ian a few times but his enthusiasm was infectious.
“He came into Rice College and spoke to the boys and at the end they all wanted to go. He was very enthusiastic and I was nearly convinced to go along. I’m involved in Rice College through the rugby and he was to set out a diet for us and I was really looking forward to that. He was the kind of person who just after meeting him, you regarded him as a friend,” he said.
While they were all shocked at the news of Ian’s death, Pat Kearns said he was proud to call him a friend and that his achievements would be an inspiration to all ages.
“He was 42 years old but he achieved so much and there was so much more he wanted to achieve. He was an incredible person and he inspired so many young people who, thanks to him, can say they climbed Kilimanjaro. That will be a platform for them for the rest of their lives and give them self esteem and hope for the future.”

HAVE YOUR SAY email antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie with your comments