SPEAKING to The Outlook last Thursday (26 July) Noel Hanna was in good spirits and looking forward to his next two adventures in August.
The Dromara man last month became the first climber from Northern Ireland to reach the summit of K2, located on the China-Pakistan border on Saturday, 21 July.
Considered one of the most dangerous climbs in the world and standing at 8,611 metres, it is more commonly known as ‘the savage mountain’ due to its severe weather conditions.
Noel had managed to get a good signal on his phone and was just walking out from base camp when he got in touch.
This was Noel’s third attempt at the climb and he said it didn’t matter to him whether he was the first or the 21st person to reach the summit.
“I only decided at the end of May that I would go over and give it a shot.
“I knew a few of the other climbers also up for the challenge who I have had the pleasure of climbing with before. They are from Switzerland, Belgium and Hong Kong,” he said.
Arriving in Islamabad on Friday, 15 June he stayed there for nearly two days before heading on to Skardu, where he began seven days of trekking into base camp along the Baltoro Glacier (39 miles long), one of the longest glaciers outside of the polar regions.
“We arrived into base camp on Tuesday, 26 June and began to experience a lot of bad weather, snow and strong winds, so we rested there for five days and started our acclimatisation programme,” said Noel.
“We began going up to camps one and two and leaving off essentials at those two points and then coming back down to base again.”
The team set off on Monday, 16 July and spent a day climbing to camp one, the next day camp two, then camp three for two nights before going onto the final camp.
“It took us between 11 and 12 hours reaching the summit from camp four.
“Touch wood everything went according to plan, we had great weather and everyone got up and down safely.”
Noel reached the summit at 8am Pakistan time and spent 20 to 30 minutes at the top before making his way back down again.
“I didn’t do the climb to become the first Northern Irish climber to reach the summit,” he said.
“It didn’t matter to me if I was the first or the 21st.
“But I have to say it is nice to keep County Down on the map,” Noel added.
The climber already has plans made for two climbs in August.
“I am climbing Kilimanjaro with an American and his 10-year-old son on Friday, 10 August and following that, myself and two men from Dromara will be flying to Moscow to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia on Friday, 24 August.”
The Outlook last interviewed Noel back in November 2017 when he became the first climber to reach the summit of Burke Khang mountain (23,000ft) in the Himalayas.
Noel said he found a passion for climbing after completing the Himalayan 100-mile race in 1996.
He has climbed Mount Everest seven times and in May 2016 Noel and his wife, Lynne became the first married couple to summit Mount Everest from both the Nepal south side and the Tibet north side of the mountain.
He also made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Maxtrek, the equivalent of going from sea level to the height of Mount Everest and back to sea level in 21 hours and 50 minutes as well as completing the world’s highest ice-bucket challenge on the summit of Kilimanjaro.