Tributes paid to Irish climber who died on Mount Kilimanjaro
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has led tributes to 42-year-old Irishman Ian McKeever who has died on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Mr McKeever was well known for his charity work, adventuring and mountaineering.
“I had come to know him over recent years and I admired him not only for his own achievements and charity work but also for his work with young people in challenging them to achieve their full potential,” Mr Kenny said in a statement.
Mr McKeever had brought students from Castlebar to the summit of Kilimanjaro and had sent Mr Kenny text updates en-route on their progress.
“Ian said to me once that there was no place he would rather be than in the mountains,” Mr Kenny said.
“He was extremely passionate about what he did and driven in his belief that everybody can achieve their potential during their lifetime,” Mr Kenny said.
Mr McKeever was leading a group of about 20 climbers, most of whom were from Ireland, when it is believed they were struck by lightning earlier yesterday. Mr McKeever died in the incident. Several other climbers, including Mr McKeever's fiancé Anna, were injured during the incident. None of their injuries were serious or life-threatening, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said..
The latest expedition set off to Tanzania from Ireland on December 28th and began their ascent the day before New Year’s Eve.
In online Facebook updates, Mr McKeever wrote that there was torrential rain but spirits remained high among the hikers. In his final post he said: “We pray for dryer weather tomorrow — the big day. It’s the Lava Tower.” The Lava Tower is a landmark on the climb.
He was heavily involved with climbing specialists Kilimanjaro Achievers, and was a world record-breaking climber. He had climbed the peak more than 30 times.
Among his achievements were breaking the world record for climbing the highest summit on each of the seven continents in 2007 and in 2008 helping his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro .
In 2009, he was part of a team that attempted to row the South Atlantic Ocean in under 30 days, but the boat lost its rudder and they were forced to postpone the attempt.
He was the author of two books Give Me Shelter and Give Me Heroes and was working on a third book Give Me 28 Days.
Friend and fellow mountaineer Pat Falvey this morning described the death as a freak accident.
Mr Falvey told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland said it was hard to believe the death occurred where it did and that Mr McKeever died helping people to achieve their goals.
His friend Eugene Grey said that despite holding many world records, Mr McKeever was a “very humble guy” who “never boasted” and “always wanted to give back to society”.
“I always knew I was in the presence of a great man,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Mr McKeever “always had something planned” and had been working on becoming the first person over 40 to run the four minute mile, he said.
Breffny Morgan, who attempted to row across the Atlantic with Mr McKeever four years ago said it was “awful tragic news”. “He was a great man, always full of enthusiasm” Mr Morgan said recalling nights rowing when Mr McKeever would “always keep people going”.
Mountain runner John O’Regan said “He seemed to be happiest when he was in the mountains …so to me he has gone enjoying what he did most”.
Mountaineer Ian Taylor said “he picked Kilimanjaro probably because it is the easiest of the seven summits, it’s the highest freestanding mountain in the world, to lose his life, it’s just absolutely shocking”.
The Irish Red Cross, for whom Mr McKeever raised money, said he would be “fondly remembered” and his legacy would “live on in the positive impact he made”.
He was described as a “hero” by Adi Roche, chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, for whom Mr McKeever had also raised money on one of his climbs to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“If I had to think of Ian’s attributes I would list his enthusiasm, wisdom, humour, vibrancy and vision and his absolute living to the letter, the power of the possible,” Ms Roche said. He had an “unstoppable energy”, she added.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh described him as a “modern day hero” and an “an inspirational character who helped all those who joined him to reach strengths many didn't know they had”.
Independent TD Denis Naughton said on Twitter that he was “saddened" to hear of Mr McKeever’s death and had taken part in one of his organised cycles a number of years ago.
Wicklow Labour TD Anne Ferris expressed her sadness at his sudden death. “We were all very proud of his achievements as a world record-breaking climber and for the inspiration he gave others,” she said, adding that he would be "well remembered for his charity work”.
Late last night Mr McKeever’s family confirmed his death on his Facebook page Ian McKeever’s Kilimanjaro Achievers 2012.
"It is with deep regret, that we, Ian’s family, fiancee Anna and friends, advise of his sudden death on Kilimanjaro, today, doing what he loved best," the posting said.
Mr McKeever was a communications lecturer and broadcaster from Co Wicklow. He was formerly a traffic announcer with AA Roadwatch.
Director of policy at AA Ireland Conor Faughnan remembered his former colleague in a blog post today. “His broadcasting style and his warm, affable and stress-free voice soothed and charmed in equal measure," he said. "Even then though he was destined for bigger things. Ian’s imagination and enthusiasm were limitless. The AA was far too small for him,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was offering consular assistance. Arrangements are currently being made to make Mr McKeever’s remains available to his family, some of whom are travelling to Tanzania.
In one of his last radio interviews on KFM’s Kildare Today show with Clem Ryan, Mr McKeever spoke of how he came late to mountain climbing. “I was a late bloomer. I came to the process when I was about 30. Would you believe I had never even climbed the sugar loaf until I was 29. So when I stood at the top of the world in 2007 aged 36 the world looked very different”
He also spoke of what mountain climbing offers. “When you go through the process of being on a mountain you realise the wonderful attributes that mountains offer in the context of putting one foot in front of the other. And just having time to reflect, the opportunity to park all your worries and woes at the bottom of the mountain and then maybe a week later come off that mountain and see things from a new perspective.”
Ian McKeever's achievements:
* 2004 He set the 5 peaks world record for British and Irish mountains in 16 hours 16 minutes
* 2006 He climbed the 26 peaks of the island of Ireland in 98 hours
* 2007 He began a series of three world record challenges: on mountains, at sea and on land and gave himself 5 years; 2007 to 2012 to complete all 3 records.
* 2007 Mountain challenge: He broke the world record for the ‘Seven Summits Challenge’ climbing the highest summit on each of the seven continents in 155 days, 32 less than the previous record.
* 2008 He helped his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro.
* 2009 Sea challenge: He was part of a team that attempted to row the South Atlantic Ocean in under 30 days, but the boat lost its rudder and they were forced to postpone the attempt.
* 2010 Land challenge: When he turned 40 he set himself the challenge of beating Eamonn Coughlan’s 4 minute mile for a person over 40. His mile dropped from 7 minutes to 4 minutes 20 seconds in 22 months of training.
* 2011 He set a new record for the most reek climbs on Croagh Patrick when he made 35 summits in 80 climbing hours