Everest mountaineer for Castlebar talk

An explorer and mountaineer, who was deputy-leader of the first successful Irish ascent of Everest in 1993, is coming to Castlebar and speaking at GMIT next Wednesday at 8pm.

Frank Nugent will talk about his book, Peaks, Passes and Glaciers, which charts the extraordinary, but little publicised, achievements of the pioneering Irish climbers in the mid 19th century, who set out with basic equipment and sparse information on the largely unexplored Alps to conquer Europe’s most challenging peaks.

Mr Nugent, who has been involved in expeditions across some of the world’s most challenging mountainous and Antarctic terrains, was also a member of the Mayo team led by Jarlath Cunnane, which crossed the Northwest Passage in 2001.

In 1993 he set-off to conquer the greatest peak of all - Everest - and they succeeded in planting the first Irish flag on the world’s tallest summit.

He described 1850 to 1865 - the period covered in his book - as the “golden era” of Alpinism.

“The Alps weren’t exlored until 1840 and there were a number of very notable Irish climbers who were early pioneers.” He pointed to Charles Barrington from Bray, who was the first man to ascend the Eiger, one of the most famous and written about peaks in the world.

John Tindle, a physicist from Carlow, recorded the first ascent of the pyramidal Weisshorn and was a prominent leader, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, in the race to make the first ascent of the Matterhorn.

“There was also a very famous female climber,” added Mr Nugent. “Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed from Greystones in Wicklow was one of the first female exponents of Alpinism and the first president of the Lady’s Alpine Club.”

Orla Prendergast is a lecturer in outdoor education at GMIT.

She said the talk will have broad appeal. “This will be of interest to historical societies, walkers, climbers, and anyone interested in exploration in general,” she explained.

“Frank Nugent is very knowledgable on Irish explorers who have quite often not got the publicity they should have. He is flying the flag for these explorers in an area that’s been under-researched and he has uncovered a lot of new information.”

The talk begins at 8pm at GMIT, Castlebar. Entry on the door is €5 for adults and €2 for students and unwaged. For more information, email Orla Prendergast at [email protected].

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