Young mountaineer set to scale Kilimanjaro for NI Children’s Hospice
A young mountaineer whose dad was the second Irishman to conquer Mount Everest is set to scale the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the NI Children’s Hospice this week.
Eleven year old Conor Bannon is the son of Terence ‘Banjo’ Bannon, who reached the summit of Everest in 2003. Mum, Lauren O’Malley, is a seasoned marathon runner who completed the gruelling 156 mile Marathon des Sables in the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert in 2017. With adventure clearly in his blood, the Killean PS pupil decided to take on the challenge of becoming the youngest ever to scale the iconic mountain by the gruelling Lemosho or ‘Wild West’ route – where the final climb to the summit takes around 16 hours.
The super fit 11 year old lives with Common Variable Immune Deficiency, which requires fortnightly blood infusions at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. With this in mind, Conor chose the NI Children’s Hospice to benefit from the ambitious challenge, which he sets off for tomorrow (Tuesday), along with mum Lauren, Newry fireman Barry Duffy and the world’s first ice Triathlete, Padraig Mallon.
Mum Lauren says Conor is excited to get started on the charitable trek after months of training, which has included ascending Ben Nevis (by the toughest route of course) and countless expeditions in and around the Mournes and Slieve Gullion. Conor was accompanied on one of his Slieve Gullion treks this summer by a group of Tibetan monks who performed a special blessing for him on the summit of Slieve Gullion and gifted him with Tibetan prayer flags to place at Kilimanjaro’s summit. They have since returned home and have sent messages of support and love to Conor as he prepares to embark on his biggest challenge yet.
Lauren, who along with husband Terence has instilled a sense of adventure in Conor and his brother, travelling all over the world with them to trek in exotic locations, says she is delighted that her intrepid son will get to spend time with fellow adventurers Barry and Padraig, who she describes as “people of the same mindset who’ve done and continue to do exceptional things.”
Padraig has dubbed the Bannons “an inspirational family, who are always challenging themselves and heading off on adventures.”
“I’m excited to be doing something like this which I’ve never done before,” said the champion Ice Swimmer who is renowned in the sport for his array of achievements, which include a solo North Channel Crossing, solo English Channel Swim and a Trans Atlantic Crossing.
Admitting he is out of his comfort zone with this land-based challenge, Padraig says he has been training in the Mournes and has taken up running to prepare him for the climb. The one unknown, he says, is the altitude. “None of us know how the altitude will affect us until we get there. It’s one of those things you can’t prepare for and we just have to see how it goes.”
Speaking about 11 year old Conor, Padraig says,
“Conor has his head well screwed on and is an amazing kid. He really is the driving force behind this climb – it’s his idea and his project from the start. He’s already told his dad there will be a statue of him alongside Banjo’s monument in Newry!”
The team have been fundraising in earnest ahead of their entirely self-funded Kilimanjaro trip and that is set to continue on their return, with Conor and his dad Banjo taking part in a White Collar Boxing fundraiser and Padraig holding a coffee morning in Infinity Swim School.
To donate to Conor’s Kilimanjaro challenge in aid of NI Children’s Hospice go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Conor-Bannon19340