`NOTHING'S CLOSER TO HEAVEN'
by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Dromara man Noel
Hanna who climbed Everest.
By: Aidan O'Reilly
DROMARA man Noel Hanna is back home and
putting his feet up in Dromara after reaching the momentous
heights of Mount Everest.
But he'll never forget the incredible feeling
as he stood on top of the world and thought: "You are standing
there on your own and you suddenly realise there is nothing
living in this world that is closer to heaven than you."
But his break from the expedition won't last
very long as he is already planning his next epic adventure - to
the summit of Russian mountain Elbrus in August.
Noel is attempting an awe-inspiring world
record as he aims to climb the seven highest peaks of the
world's seven continents - Everest, Elbrus, Aconcagua,
Kilimanjaro, Carstensz Pyramid, Denali and Vinson - and make his
way back down to sea level in the shortest possible time.
earth...Noel completes his descent back to sea
He is already well on his way to his target,
having climbed Everest and cycled back down to sea level at the
Bay of Bengal.
He has also climbed South America's highest
mountain - Aconcagua in Argentina.
Noel reached the summit of Everest on May 21,
less than two months after leaving his home in Dromara at the
beginning of April.
"It was really two expeditions for me" Noel
explained. "For a lot of people, once they reach the summit they
can chill out and celebrate, but I still knew that I had to
cycle back down to sea level.
"I am trying to set the world record for
climbing the highest peaks in each continent and then getting to
sea level by human power.
"I decided that people had climbed Everest
before so I thought I would try to do something different: it's
another added challenge.
"Since I turned 30, I have wanted to
constantly challenge myself."
Noel on his ascent of
Noel had attempted to climb Everest last
year, however due to retinal haemorrhaging, which caused him to
temporarily lose his eyesight, he had to abandon his attempt.
Nevertheless, and despite warnings from his
doctor that the same thing may happen again, he was determined
to reach the summit.
"Last time it was very annoying because we had
put so much effort into it and then something happened that I
had no control over and we had to turn back," said Noel.
"It was a possibility that it would happen
again but it was a gamble and I just had to take one day at a
Noel explained that everyone who hopes to
climb Everest knows of the dangers involved. However these
dangers were brought home when two of Noel's team mates lost
their lives in the attempt.
"Two of our team died - Thomas from Germany
and Igor from Russia," explained Noel. "It was very difficult.
We don't know what happened to Thomas. We think he took a heart
attack because he just collapsed and was dead within minutes.
"Unfortunately Igor didn't make it to the
summit. He came to the camp with us and the next day he died.
They think it was sheer exhaustion and dehydration."
Noel also had a stark reminder of his first
attempt at Everest on his way to the summit. "The climber I was
with last year died 50 metres from the summit," he explained. "I
recognised his body when we passed him this year. That brings
back a lot of memories. Thirteen months ago we were eating lunch
together. You know when you are going up that at least two
members of your team will not come back."
Despite a few upsetting moments along the
way, not least of which when his oxygen failed and Noel had to
climb without oxygen for an hour, he was delighted to reach the
"I was very happy with my climb," he said,
"because there were no real problems. You never really know if
you are going to make it until you reach the summit."
Now back in Dromara, Noel is already starting
to feel restless and is planning his climb in Russia, and is
even considering more adventures next year, with another attempt
at Everest with his wife Lynne and possibly even an expedition
to both the North and South Poles.
He has had a lot of support from local
businesses, which have enabled him to reach new heights in
climbing and he is hoping to secure sponsorship for his next big
"I have had a lot of support from local
people and business," he said. "Gordons Chemist, O'Hares Bars
and Lounges, Raw Outdoors, Mountain Hardwear Clothing,
Burrendale Hotel and Giant Cycles UK have all given me great
support and I would like to thank them for that.
"Of course, I would also like to thank my
wife Lynne for supporting me along the way and I know she would
love to have been with me on the summit of Everest."