The adventure of a lifetime


Castlebar photographer and video editor Ger Duffy’s diary of his climb to Everest Base Camp and Island Peak in the Himalayas

Day 1 Dublin to Nepal
It’s go time! It’s all led to this.
First off is Dublin to Doha, Qatar with a connection flight onto Kathmandu, Nepal.

Day 2 Katmandu
So unfortunately we still haven’t got to Lukla (where our trek starts).
We spent the morning in Kathmandu airport waiting for a flight on our 14 seater plane to Lukla, but the weather in Lukla was too bad for the plane to land safely.
After a few hours, the weather showed promise so we hopped onto the plane – but about 25 minutes into our flight the weather turned again and we had to land at a nearby air field.
We’re now getting lunch here while we wait for the weather in Lukla to hopefully give us a window to land there.

Day 3 Lukla We made it!
We were lucky enough to reach Lukla airstrip today. We were the only flight that managed to get in or out of it today.
It was a very sketchy flight, with some heart stopping moments. Especially when the pilots screen read the words ‘TOO LOW, TERRAIN AHEAD. PULL UP’ in big red writing.
I’m missing a few bits of gear, they got left at Kathmandu Airport.
Included in this is all of my camera/phone battery chargers - not ideal when you’re trying to produce a documentary. I’m down to one battery, so hoping it arrives tomorrow or I’m in serious bother.

Day 5 Acclimatisation hike and rest day
Another day of thick fog and heavy downpours of rain. Still no views of the wonderful peaks that surround us - but a brilliant day bonding with a great team.
Team is a key word there. Everyone is looking out for everyone. The laughs are constant. Nobody is left behind.

Day 7 Phortse to Dingboche (4410m)
It’s Christmas morning!
Well, it’s not really but it felt like it! We woke up to no clouds, breathtaking views and some sun breaking across the peaks! Every single member of the team jumped out of bed to stare out their windows or run outside. The energy was amazing and had every giddy during breakfast.
But it wasn’t to last long.
Shortly after setting off on our trek, the clouds rolled in and they stayed for most of the day.
But then – out of nowhere, while we were taking a water break – the clouds parted, a blue sky came through and then the most magical sight I’ve ever seen in my life … the most spectacular and picturesque mountain in the world showed itself, Ama Dablam.
The screams of joy and a rush to find our cameras. The two mountains I wanted to witness in person on this trip were Everest and Ama Dablam. This was a real special moment for me.
Following on from this, the clouds came in once again. We continued and headed to Khumjung, where we stopped at a 600 year old monastery for a tour. A Monk then came by, where myself and three others asked him to perform a blessing on our Buddhist prayer flags that we picked up.
He obliged, and it was the most unique experience. We knelt in his temple, while he performed a ritual blessing our flags and prayed for our safe passage to Island Peak … I was so relaxed and amazed at this whole experience. Again, I can’t put into words, but I feel much safer on the mountains afterwards.

Day 8 Rest and acclimatisation day
A much needed rest day … yet I still found myself getting up at 5.50am to capture the sunrise. And it was amazing!
After capturing my shots, I just sat and meditated for a few minutes. Simply appreciating where I was.
My charging/battery gear still hasn’t arrived and it’s proper squeaky bum time. If it doesn’t arrive in the next day or two, this whole documentary/video project may be a complete shambles. So my stress levels on this front are going sky high! Not what I need at altitude.

Day 10 Everest Base Camp (5364m)
I’ve waited 15 years for this moment.
Ever since I read my first book on Everest, I knew I wanted to visit Base Camp.
The fact I got here is spine tingling, and internally I felt quite emotional.
This is where all of those legendary climbers and expeditions start. Imagine!
We even got a small, tiny glimpse of the Everest summit (which we’ll get a better view of tomorrow).
Trying to process everything I was seeing was hard – I think the real significance of visiting here will hit me once the trip finishes.

Day 11 Kala Patthar Summit (5550m), and return to Dingboche (4410m).
My first summit of a 5,000m+ peak.
A 3.30am rise. It was dark, extremely cold (forecast was between -5 to -10) and a layer of snow had fallen while we were asleep … but that didn’t deter us.
This was the perfect dry-run for Island Peak next week.
We got stuck straight into Kala Patthar. A steep climb towards the summit, that didn’t really flatten out or give us a break at any stage. Kala Patthar is regarded as a fairly manageable peak, but the altitude mixed with the weather conditions was making this a big task!
The higher we got, the trickier it became.
Shortly after 6am we reached the summit and stood at 5,550metres above sea level. We had timed it with sunrise - although once again the sunrise didn’t play ball. This was supposed to be the spot where we got our grand reveal of Mount Everest, but unfortunately we didn’t. I’m a little disappointed I came all the way here and won’t see Mount Everest, but I guess that means I’ll have to come back at some stage, right?

Day 14
My gear finally arrived … just in time for Island Peak. The relief!

Day 16 Summit Day
Mission accomplished.
I reached the summit of Island Peak at 10.21am, Thursday, October 6, 2022.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – both mentally and physically.
We started our summit push at 01am. We decided to go straight from Base Camp to the Summit – cutting out High Camp. Ambitious much?
It was a long, long night. It was cold, foggy, snowy and icy. After a number of hours we eventually reached Crampon Point - we harnessed up, put on our helmets and, excuse the French, but sh*t got real.
We were divided into teams of four, plus a Sherpa for each team. I was in the first group to go. We were roped together and started making our way across the glacier. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The twisting formations of the towering aqua blue ice surrounded us, huge crevasses, icicles the would pierce you in a second if they fell.
We managed to find a route through the glacier that involved not using ladders to cross any crevasses (secretly delighted, but also disappointed). But we knew instantly that we were in for a hard one as there was a thick fresh layer of snow that made it hard to walk.
Our legs were burning, our lungs were desperately seeking extra oxygen that wasn’t there – with only 50 percent of the oxygen in the air that we would have at sea level. After what seemed like an eternity we finally reached the headwall – the biggest challenge of all. Three hundred metres of unforgiving vertical climbing on a wall of ice onto the summit ridge.
This is where my mind and body went to places I didn’t think were possible. Our Sherpa, Tenzing (yes, named after that Tenzing) was incredible. He geared us up, we got our jumars in place and with a simple ‘best of luck, my friend’ from Tenzing we started to scale the wall.
This icewall is tricky on a normal day – but let me attempt to set the scene here. We were the first people to climb the mountain today. It was snowing all night. We were knee-deep in fresh accumulation of snow, with no paths ahead of us. Kicking our crampons into the snow to create a path was hard, but the fresh snow made it 100 times harder and sometimes it just didn’t work and we slipped. It was a complete whiteout - cloud/fog/snow in all directions which was so disorientating. It’s weird, but sometimes it felt tricky to figure out which way was up. Then the winds started, blasting snow into our faces.
The icewall was never ending. After the first straight part, we then had to try navigate our ascending lines in between huge rocks, icicles and tricky turns. The lack of oxygen meant every breath we couldn’t get enough air in, and it was suffocating.
After a few hours of vertical climbing, Kym (an absolute trooper of a man) who was ahead of me, shouted back that we were nearly on the summit ridge. By this stage I was on my hands and knees barely able to crawl up to the ridge. I questioned everything ‘why am I here?’, ‘why am I doing this?’. I pushed through, I got strength in my legs from nowhere and pulled myself up onto that ridge – which was no more than two to three foot wide. I collapsed face first into the snow. Exhausted.
“Ger, just turn back,” the little devil on my shoulder starting whispering in my ear. Hell no. I’ve come all this was, I’m about 200m short of the summit – turning back is not an option. I unhooked myself from the ascending line on the icewall, and clipped into the ridge line. I also looked over the other edge of the ridge – bad idea! A drop off into nowhere. I looked ahead and seen Kym blasting up that summit ridge. I crawled, literally crawled after him. My body was spent.
But slowly I was making pace. I was on my feet moving slowly, following in the path that Kym had ploughed through the thick snow. And then I was on my knees again. Exhausted. I looked up, Kym was two metres from the summit. I watched him step onto that summit – the first person of the day to do so - and it gave me this energy from nowhere.
I picked myself up and went for it. Twenty metres short, ten metres, five metres. Kym was encouraging me on. One metre. I collapsed on my knees again. Kym kept pushing me, and with the last little bit of energy I had, I summited. I unclipped from the ascending rope and into the safety loop on top of the mountain. I hugged Kym as we both knelt there after getting our first 6,000m+ mountain. Emotional and exhausted. Our doctor, Noel Chun quickly followed, then Tenzing. We all crammed onto the summit which could fit no more than a few people. The elevation, the delight. It was amazing.
Doc pulled a small bottle of rum out of his backpack. Myself, Doc, Kym and Tenzing all shared a swig to celebrate. We didn’t get any views as we were surrounded by cloud, but it didn’t matter.
I opened my bag, pulled out some Buddhist prayer flags that I got blessed by a monk in a monastery in Khumjung a few weeks ago and placed them on the summit. These flags carried prayers for my family and my girlfriend, Joanne, and I thanked the mountain for letting us summit.
This was 1000 times harder than I thought it would be – and I knew what I was getting myself in for.

In the days after I spent a lot of the walking time thinking about different things and also processing summit day. I didn’t get to fully appreciate what I achieved on the day, I was more preoccupied with getting off the mountain safely. So it only hit me afterwards that I climbed a freakin’ 6000m peak – bonkers. I felt quite emotional. I’ve poured so much time and effort into this trip, it was overwhelming to see it all pay off and become a success.
I turned 30 on October 12 and I got back to Dublin Airport on October 13 to a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ in Dublin Airport arrivals from Joanne,
my family, Eddie McGuinness (The Outing) and Georgina (Irish Cancer Society).
Very unexpected – and for anyone who knows me – I generally like to keep a low profile, so instantly I wanted the ground to swallow me when all the heads in arrivals turned my direction!
What a wonderful surprise though, and the emotions were very high!
I arrived back to my house decorated, and a huge Island Peak birthday cake. I’m feeling very loved, and I’m so happy to be back home with Joanne and Pepper (our cat).
I’m seeking to raise €20,000 for the Irish Cancer Society and the Mayo SPCA so anyone who wishes to support my campaign can do so at

These diaries are an edited version of the diaries Ger posted on his Facebook page Ger’s Everest Exhibition.