Northern Irish men to tackle Himalayan trek

Joel on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Joel on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
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Two Co Antrim men are preparing to take on a gruelling challenge in aid of a worthy cause.

Newtownabbey man, Joel Adair (27) and his friend, Richard McFerran (32), will be trekking from Lukla to Mount Everest Base Camp (17,598 feet) in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Richard McFerran pictured with Michael O'Neill.

Richard McFerran pictured with Michael O'Neill.

The former Ballyclare High School students are set to leave the UK on March 17, flying to Kathmandu in Nepal.

Richard, who is originally from Ballyclare, works as a Planning Development Manager in London.

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times about his decision to participate in the trek and raise funds for Macmillan, Richard said: ““Macmillan is a charity which is close to my and my family’s hearts. Unfortunately my Mum, Yvonne, passed away in June 2017 after a really courageous battle with ovarian cancer. 

“During her illness, Macmillan provided Mum with an invaluable level of care and some amazing support to family members during some very difficult days.  I’ve no doubt that the experience would have been much worse for Mum and the family if it were not for Macmillan’s facilities and staff, particularly at their specialist unit at Antrim Area Hospital.”

He added: “I’d therefore really like to be able to raise some money for them as a way of saying thanks and to make a small difference to the work that they do. Joel and I are paying our own expenses for the trip, so all money raised will go directly to Macmillan to help fund the brilliant work they do in Northern Ireland.”

As part of their trip, Joel and Richard will also include a summit attempt of Kala Patthar (18,208 feet).

Detailing his motivation behind the challenge, Joel explained: “I enjoy being in the mountains, as well as having a challenge on the horizon as a goal to work towards, so this trek to Everest Base Camp ticks all the boxes.

“I’ve had a fascination with Everest and the Himalaya region for a few years, so the chance to visit Nepal and see places like Tengboche in person is a fantastic opportunity.”

Richard added: “I’ve got a real interest in travelling and trying to see as much of the world as possible and it’s always been an ambition to go to the Himalaya and hopefully see the world’s tallest mountain with my own eyes. 

“So when the opportunity arose to do this trek and couple it with raising money for a fantastic charity, it felt like an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.”

Both men are avid football fans and are members of the London Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club. Joel is also a passionate Crusaders fan.

Crusaders have given their support to Joel and Richard’s charity drive, while fellow members of the London NISC have helped with the fundraising effort.

Commenting on their fundraising push and the support they have received ahead of the trek, Joel said: “I struggled my way through Sober October a few months ago, and at the moment we’re auctioning off a signed Crusaders FC home shirt which will hopefully add another few hundred pounds to our total.

“We’re also planning to hold a final fundraising event in the next couple of months, so we’ll be reaching out to local businesses to hopefully get some fantastic items for a raffle or auction.”

Richard added: “I’ve done a ‘Veg Pledge’ where I went a whole month without meat – difficult for a greedy carnivore!

“I’m also a member of the London Northern Ireland Supporters Club who have raised some generous sums through a ‘Last Man Standing’ competition and a raffle for an NI shirt signed by the legendary Norman Whiteside.”

Ahead of the trek, which they hope to have completed in 11 days, the men are participating in a tough training regime.

Richard said: “I’ve been upping the number of miles I walk every week, including some 10 mile walks with Joel in London and 12 mile walks along the South Downs in Sussex. Unfortunately, nothing can replicate the altitude and subsequent low oxygen levels we’ll face in the high mountains of Nepal, so I’m fully expecting this to be a difficult couple of weeks!”

Joel, who climbed Kilimanjaro at the end of 2016 in aid of the Northern Ireland Hospice, stated: “It’s nearly impossible to truly simulate trekking at altitude, so it’s more about getting used to long days on your feet and with a bag on your back.

“I head to the Mournes when I can, which I thoroughly enjoy. It will be a very tough trek, but I’m sure it will all pay off.”

Although the task in front of them is daunting, both Richard and Joel are looking forward to the expedition.

Joel said: “I’m most looking forward to experiencing the Nepali and Sherpa cultures and, of course, seeing the world’s highest mountain with my own eyes! Luckily there will be some of the best scenery in the world all around us to keep our minds off the blisters and lack of oxygen.”

Richard added: “I’m really looking forward to my first day in the Himalaya and getting an appreciation of the scale of the mountains and the long trek ahead!”

Thanking everyone for their support, Richard said: “I’d really like to thank my Dad, Jim, and sister, Lauren, who have been a pillar of strength through some difficult times. 

“Their support and encouragement for this trek means a lot.  I’d also like to thank the boys and girls at the London NISC who have made some very generous donations and supportive in my training. Finally, big thanks to Joel for suggesting this in the first place!”

Joel added: “We’ve been overwhelmed with support and generous donations from our friends and family since we decided to take on the challenge, but a special mention must also go to the players and staff at Crusaders Football Club for donating the signed shirt, and to the members of the London Northern Ireland Supporters Club who are chipping in to help us both in every way that they can.”

Richard and Joel have covered the expenses for the trip themselves, so all monies raised will be donated to Macmillan.

If you would like to make a donation, go to their online fundraising page, www.justgiving.com/RickyandJoel