Triumphant young hiker sets new record

November 5, 2018

A primary school pupil from Jonesborough has scooped the honour of becoming the youngest person ever to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, via one of its most challenging routes.

Eleven-year-old Conor Bannon scaled the peak with his mum Lauren O’Malley, an accomplished mountaineer and marathon runner, while Barry Duffy, a fireman from Newry and ice triathlete Padraig Mallon from Camlough completed the intrepid team.

By reaching the summit of the iconic mountain, the Killean Primary School pupil has become the youngest person to complete the gruelling trek via the Lemosho or ‘Wild West’ route – where the final climb to the summit takes around 16 hours.  The team brought their eight-day trek to a successful conclusion when they reached the summit on Thursday afternoon last, and in doing so, raised more than £4,000 for their chosen charity NI Children’s Hospice.

Conor lives with Common Variable Immune Deficiency, which requires fortnightly blood infusions at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.  It was during a visit to the NI Children’s Hospice after feeling down about his own illness, that the charitable P7 pupil decided he wanted the facility to benefit from the ambitious challenge.

Reflecting on that visit, his father Terence ‘Banjo’ Bannon – an avid mountaineer and the first person to be awarded the Freedom of his hometown of Newry after scaling Everest – said: “We were talking after he visited the hospice and he said, ‘you know there are children much worse off than me’ and that’s where the idea first came from.  He’s only 11, but planned and fund-raised by himself,” the proud dad added.

Despite being offered the opportunity to turn back during the gruelling ascent, Banjo said his son refused to give up.

“Near the summit there’s only 30 per cent oxygen and that takes it out of your body, but even though he was being sick and struggling at times he said he didn’t want to let the hospice children down and kept going.  He’s an extraordinary young lad, I’m so proud of him, if he can achieve something like this at just 11, well who knows what else life has in store for him?”

The proud father said local people were so impressed by Conor’s enormous feat of physical endurance that they are planning a special party in his honour when he returns from Tanzania.