Read more: Ian interviewed about Everest and inspirational speaking.
How did trekking the Inca Trail inspire you to climb Mount Everest?
I graduated university in 2001 and little did I know I would be standing on the summit of Mt. Everest in 2008. I always had a passion for adventure, mountains, travel, exploration but really had no idea how to develop this expensive hobby. I had been climbing from a young age and developed my skill set for hikes and climbs in Ireland, UK and Europe. My experience at altitude was limited. My knowledge of altitude sickness or how my body would react at altitude was none existent. In 2005, a friend and I were in Peru traveling and hiking. We were sitting on the back of a bus at 15,000 feet talking about climbing, altitude and all things mountains. A English girl Polly, started talking about Everest and wanted to climb it. The seed was planted. I really hadn’t thought about climbing Everest until that point but my friend and I decided to explore the options of climbing Everest. While in Peru we decided to trek to Everest base camp, see Everest and decide if we should pursue the challenge of climbing Everest. On May 24th 2006 we placed this t-shirt in a famous Himalayan bar Cafe Danfe in Namche Bazaar 3,440m/ 11,300 ft. My experience travelling in Peru and hiking the Inca trail changed the direction of my life.
You are an admirable example of willpower and endurance. Where does your energy come from?
What is the most challenging (and perhaps rewarding) experience you have had?
When you are learning as you go, there are always going to be risks, disappointments, failures and reward. Most of the time, disappointments and failure are experienced. When we set that goal and go after it with all we have we have a chance. The journey is important and it is important to be ready to fail. When we decided to climb Everest we set the goal of climbing 4 mountains on 4 continents between June 2007 to June 2008 and raise $100,000 to build the Mt. Everest Primary school. In January 2008, two months before we were due to fly to Kathmandu and start our Everest journey. We were climbing in South America. We had achieved the third mountain out of four. Everest was up next. I really struggled with the lack of oxygen and struggled on this mountain. I was learning fast about my limits, or was I. I was being pushed high fast and on day 12 I was at standing at 23,000 feet above sea level. What I have learned from going into low oxygen environment and leading teams trekking around the world is you have to take more time. Our guide was cutting corners, offering terrible acclimatization to the lack of oxygen, food, tents, equipment and support. I has been training for 18 months, my resting heart rate was 38 beats per minute, I was super strong, carrying 30 kg for 8 hours up and down hills and doing it again the next day, then back in the gym for 3 hours the following day. I was ready. The issue was my experience with low oxygen environments. I was having to learn fast. In January 2008 our guide cancelled our trip to Everest, told me I would die if I went to Everest. This was one of the lowest days of my life. All the preparation, investment, time, money and project were over. I evaluated the information we were given, slowly rebuilt my confidence and decided to sign up to another team. Two months later I was on route to Everest and four months later I was standing on top of the world. We adapted learned from the disappointment and applied the learning. We went for an Everest climb with more acclimatization and made it to the summit of Everest on the 23rd May 2008, two years after accepting the challenge. Raised the money to build the Mt. Everest school and now what it go from strength to strength.
Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?
I have been speaking professionally now for 7 years. I started organizing events on my own gathering people to come and listen to my journey to Everest and it has developed over time where I have been brought in to companies to work with management teams, deliver key notes in front of 800+ people. I have spoken to a lot of large companies but my favorite speaking experience was to a group of 200 transition year students who I got an amazing response from. Challenging them to be the best they can be and exploring the issues that they face and showing them that opportunities do exist out there if they but themselves out there gain as much experience as they can and find out what they are good, what they love and follow that passion, as it will lead to opportunities. To see eyes focused and students listen and be inspired by my story makes it truly worthwhile.
Can you name one main idea that you hope your audiences take with them?