Hanna conquers a less high but far harder peak than Everest

At the weekend, Noel Hanna became the first person from Northern Ireland to reach the peak of K2.

Monday, 23rd July 2018, 11:35 am
Updated Monday, 23rd July 2018, 11:39 am
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The Himalayan mountain is the second highest in the world, after Everest, but it is much more dangerous.

Everest is quite perilous enough and has claimed the lives of hundreds of climbers, in comparison to the thousands who have successfully reached the summit.

K2 has a far higher percentage death rate. Hanna, from Dromara in Co Down, is one of fewer than 200 people who have stood on its highest point, while 61 have died trying to do so, or returning from doing so.

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He is only the second Irish person to reach that spot on earth (a third, Jason Black from Donegal, was a day behind him).

Hanna follows in the footsteps of great Ulster climbers. Dawson Stelfox, the Belfast-based conservation architect, was both the first Northern Irish person on the top of Everest, and the first Irish person (25 years ago, in 1993).

From the very earliest Belfast News Letters in the late 1730s, we have been reporting on local folk who have explored the far reaches of the world, including Hans Sloane, who was an earlier traveller to the Caribbean in the late 1600s and was still alive in London, and mentioned on these pages, after the paper was launched.

Nowadays, extreme expeditions to places such as Everest have become highly popular, probably because life has become in many respects so safe that people are seeking major physical challenges.

K2 is one of the greatest challenges there is, requiring serious climbing skills accompanied with great courage.

It is often said that the descent is more dangerous than the climb. Hanna had good reason to celebrate yesterday, but also to be thankful: the first Irish person to reach the summit of K2, Gerard McDonnell, lost his life on the way down.