While St Stephenâ€™s Day will be a day of relaxation for most, one Longford man will be on his way to Antarctica to climb the continentâ€™s highest peak.
Paul Devaney from Killoe is aiming to scale Vinson Massif, the sixth stage in his bid to climb the Seven Summits - the highest mountain on each continent. Itâ€™s a feat which has been accomplished by less than 300 people to date.
Speaking from his training base at the University of Limerick (UL), Paul told the Longford Leader how he decided to take on the challenge.
â€œI got hooked on climbing after a visit to Everest Base Camp in 2oo5,â€ he said. â€œI then read about the Seven Summits, and so a bunch of us who had graduated from UL decided to climb Kilimanjiro as a test. We all made it, so we decided to keep on going.â€
Paul, who has climbed five of the mountains at this stage, admits the preparations for his next climb have been complicated.
â€œAntarctica is incredibly difficult to get to and the logistics involved are incredible,â€ he explained. â€œWe have to charter a Russian military transport aircraft, which will leave us at the research station at Union Glacier, and from there a small plane will take us to the base camp. When we return to Union Glacier after the climb, it could be a few weks before thereâ€™s a flight back.â€
Paulâ€™s journey to Antactica occurs at a significant time. â€œOur trip will coincide of the 100th anniversary of Shackleton and Creanâ€™s South Polar expedition,â€ he revealed.
Since he started out on his Seven Summits quest in 2007, Paul has used the mission to raise money for charity.
â€œThis time around weâ€™re raising money for Liamâ€™s Lodge, which is a charity aiming to build a respite centre in Tralee for kids with rare genetic disorders and their families,â€ he said. â€œIt isnâ€™t getting any government money, so it relies on public funding.â€
When he returns home from Antarctica, Paul will have a short break before setting his sights on the ultimate mountain to climb: Everest. Itâ€™s a challenge heâ€™s determined to complete during 2014.
â€œIâ€™ve got eight weeks after returning from Antarctica before I start preparing for Everest,â€ he admitted.
But for now heâ€™s focused on the task at hand:â€¨â€œIâ€™m pretty confident,â€ he concluded. â€œThe endurance is there, the equipment is ready and the boots are worn in. If the wind is with us weâ€™ll have no problem!â€