Donegal trio climb 'Everest' for A Better Life for Livie
By John Harrington
It’s only today that Aaron Kyles is able to make it up and down the stairs in his house with any degree of comfort.
No surprise there, because the Donegal GAA Coaching and Games Development Manager spent the weekend climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest for a very good cause.
He and his good friends Kevin McBrearty and James McGroary scaled Carnaween mountain in Donegal 20 times (which equates to the height of Mt Everest) in the space of 48 hours to raise funds for the treatment of eight-month old baby Olivia Mulhern who has been recently diagnosed with a rare and serious genetic neuromuscular condition called spinal muscular atrophy.
Olivia urgently needs surgery in the USA which will cost over two million dollars. Without treatment, her condition would continue to deteriorate and it would be unlikely she would survive past her second birthday.
In the same way that the GAA community rallied around the ‘Do it for Dan’ fundraiser for baby Dan Donoher who suffers from the very same condition as Olivia Mulhern, now they’re also putting their shoulder to the wheel to also raise the two million dollars for ‘A Better Life for Livie’.
“We would know some of the extended family that are living in Donegal town and we had seen the situation and what was done by the 'Do it For Dan' fundraisers and with the Donegal connection we wanted to help,” Kyles told GAA.ie
“It wasn't really me that came up with the idea. It was two schoolfriends who decided to do it, Kevin McBrearty and James McGroary. They would be big for climbing and orienteering and I would have a background in fitness and coaching so they came to me asking how they could best plan for it and train for it and I came on board with them then.
“The mountain that we climbed, Carnaween, they would do that multiple times throughout the year, especially in the summer, but they've obviously never had to do it 20 times up and down back to back.
“It was a challenge, but thankfully we did it all. Our fund-raising just hit the €28,000 mark this morning so we’re over the moon because we had set out to raise €10,000.”
The money they’ve raised so far is a testament to the scale of the challenge that they undertook.
Climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest in the space of 48 hours is no mean feat, no matter how fit you are.
The trio scaled Carnaween 21 times over the course of three weeks in preparation, but Kyles admits it was still a serious physical and mental challenge to complete their task.
“We had originally planned to do six climbs on the Friday and ten on the Saturday but we saw that the weather forecast was getting very bad so we pushed on late on Friday and did eight climbs the first day.
“I found the last two on Friday to be very mentally challenging. The physical implications hit more on the Sunday and we were all feeling the pain.
“It was your glutes, hamstrings, and calves going up and your joints around your knees and ankles coming back down.
“On Friday we were going up and down in 60/65 minutes. Saturday that went to 70, and on Sunday we were between 70 and 75 because the bodies were starting to get sore.
“The weather we were training in was lovely, it was sunny and warm all the time. Then on the Friday it was hailstones and we literally had the four seasons across the weekend.
“The only time it cleared and we were able to see the bottom from the top of the mountain was the very last climb."
Kyles is keen to pay tribute to all those who helped them in their endeavour along the way and were there to welcome them down off the mountain after they finally hit the magic 20th summit mark.
“We were just delighted to be able to do it and had huge support from our communities,” he says.
“They were absolutely massive, we wouldn't have gotten through it only for them.
“We were very lucky to have a base-camp at the bottom of the mountain. A fella by the name of John McGroary who would be a neighbour of James' is involved in mountain rescue and he operated a base-camp for us so every time we came down he had us on the clock and would tell us when we were meant to be away again.
“We had huge support from my GAA club, Kevin's GAA club, and James' soccer club and our family and friends were just there the whole time.
“Quite a few of them would have walked the mountain with us on Saturday and Sunday which was great, it gave you an extra motivation."
You can donate to the ‘A Better Life for Livie’ fundraiser HERE.