Ain’t no mountain high enough for Noel

Mountaineer Noel Hanna will set off for his most challenging expedition to date this weekend as he prepares to climb one of the world’s most dangerous mountains.

Adventurer Noel Hanna
Adventurer Noel Hanna

The Dromara man will join a team of experienced high-altitude climbers who all hope to summit the mighty K2 in the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan.

At 8,611 metres, K2 is the world’s second highest peak and is the only remaining 8,000-plus metre peak never to be climbed in winter.

Noel is no stranger to high mountains with 11 summits under his belt. He was also the first person from Ireland to successfully summit and descend K2 in 2018.

However, he said the K2 winter expedition will be his most dangerous climb to date, due to the cold, coupled with heavy snow and the risk of avalanche,

“It is known as a ‘savage/killer’ mountain in the climbing world,” said Noel.

“Temperatures will go down to -70 degrees and there’ll be 100km winds with the temperature at base camp -30 degrees without wind chill.

“I’ll definitely need my long johns,” he joked.

Because of the pandemic, Noel hasn’t been preparing as much as he normally would before a climb.

“I haven’t been out on a mountain now for 14 months because of Covid, so preparation hasn’t been as good as I would have liked it. A week ago I was up Slieve Donard and that was really the only peak that I’ve been up this year.”

Noel and his team will meet in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, before flying to the city of Skardu on December 22 for final registration. They will then travel to the remote town of Askole to begin the arduous trek into the base camp of K2.

“The trek in is almost 100 kilometres on foot in freezing winter conditions travelling on the Baltoro glazier hoping to reach base camp at the start of 2021,” said Noel

Once they settle at base camp the acclimation process will begin with a series of rotation climbs up and down the mountain so the body can prepare for summit in mid February 2021.

Noel’s climb has received some local sponsorship from Hinch Distillery in Ballynahinch

“I will be turning 54 on January 18 when I’m out there, so I’ll have a couple of glasses of their whiskey at base camp to celebrate.”

Noel, who plans to do another Everest climb in the spring and one in the autumn with his wife Lynne, also an accomplished climber, said he enjoys the buzz he gets from challenging his body.

“It’s like if you leave a car and don’t start it for weeks on end, the battery will go flat, whereas if you keep driving it, hopefully it will keep going for longer. It’s the same with the body.”