Irish pair forced to abandon North Pole trek on foot


EVEREST SUMMITEER Dr Clare O’Leary and adventurer Mike O’Shea have been forced to abandon their attempt to become the first Irish team to reach the North Pole by foot.

The pair said they had no option but to turn back, after a plan fell through to share air delivery of food supplies along the 788km route.

Had they continued, they would have been left with a potential bill of up to €180,000 for their air drop of resupplies, they said.

The pair have also been hit by a series of severe storms during the first 10 days of their trek in temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius across ice on the Arctic Ocean.

A solo Japanese skier, Yasu Ogita, who left Cape Discovery with them on March 2nd has also reported damage to equipment during the blizzards.

Dr O’Leary, a specialist in gastroenterology at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, was undertaking her third attempt on the North Pole with Kerry adventurer Mike O’Shea.

Frostbite contracted by one team member in 2010, and bad weather last year, scuppered her first two ventures.

Had Dr O’Leary been successful this time, she would have become only the second woman in the world to have climbed the seven highest summits and reached both poles.

She ascended Everest in 2004 – on her second attempt – and trekked with Pat Falvey to the South Pole in 2008, four years after Kerry climber Mike Barry was the first Irishman to do so.

In a statement transmitted from the Arctic Ocean, O’Leary and O’Shea said they were “safe and well” and had been making “good progress”.

“The first two weeks of a North Pole expedition are considered extremely challenging because of the short daylight hours, the unrelenting cold and the difficult ice terrain,”they said.

“We had been moving well through one of the hardest sections in a period of uncharacteristic bad weather, but with our opportunity of shared resupplies removed we were left with no choice but to return to the start point and get a charter out to Resolute Bay,” they said.

“It will take several days for us to return to Cape Discovery [the trek start point] and we hope to catch a charter on March 15th/16th,” they said, adding that “we never anticipated this turn of events”.

“It’s very hard to explain how difficult it is to walk away from an expedition into which we have invested so much time, energy and money – especially when it feels like things are going well for us.” The pair’s return trek is expected to take some days.

In a recent blog, they described the difficulties of coping with ice drifting south, which cost them distance every time they slept.