Belfast Telegraph

Everest conquerer’s son Conor Bannon (11) sets his sights high

11-year-old to take on Kilimanjaro for hospice

By Mark Bain

An 11-year-old Co Armagh boy is ready to follow in his famous father's footsteps by attempting to reach the summit of the highest mountain in Africa.

Conor Bannon, a P6 pupil at Killean Primary School in Jonesborough, will try to emulate his dad's mountaineering exploits when he takes on the challenge of scaling the 19,340ft Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in October with the aim of raising money for the NI Children's Hospice.

Newry firefighter dad Terence 'Banjo' Bannon was the second Irishman to conquer Mount Everest, reaching the summit in 2003.

Conor will be the youngest person to attempt to scale the mountain by the gruelling Lemosho route.

According to mum Lauren O'Malley, adventure and a desire to challenge himself are clearly in his blood, and he's relishing the climb.

"He's very excited by the challenge, but he's been facing challenges all his life and I've no doubt he's ready for it," said Lauren, who will be with the party when they set off on October 23.

"I'm letting her come along as she had to pay for the travel," joked Conor.

The young mountaineer also has health issues to deal with. He lives with common variable immune deficiency, which requires fortnightly blood infusions at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. That's the reason why the NI Children's Hospice is set to benefit.

Lauren explained: "The NI Children's Hospice has been wonderful for him and he's seen a lot of kids much worse off than himself. He wanted to do this to support their work."

Newry firefighter Barry Duffy and the world's first ice triathlete, Camlough man Padraig Mallon, will be joining them on the climb. "I think Conor's been ready for this for some time," Lauren said.

"He's been with us all over the world, places like Vietnam, Borneo, jungle trekking in Belize. The warm weather jungle training will be useful as for the first few days it'll be hot. It's only when you start to climb that the temperature drops dramatically.

"Conor's done a lot of training in the mountains around Ireland and we'll be going to Ben Nevis for final preparations. He knows the challenge he's taking on. The only thing we're unsure of, and no-one can be sure until they go, is how he will cope with the altitude.

"We've decided on an unusual route. It'll take a bit longer to climb, but there's more chance of making it to the top.

"For me and Conor this will be a great opportunity. Banjo isn't doing this one as, to be fair, it's not as big a challenge for him now. He's more in to ice climbing which is a lot more technical. Conor trains hard and his school has been fantastic. We're hoping to get some sort of link that we can reach them when we're up there and report back to all his friends."

Lauren is no stranger to adventure, though she admits she'll be pushing herself through the pain barrier to accompany her son to the top.

"I completed the Marathon des Sables in the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert in 2017. That was 156 miles and I've had to have reconstructive surgery on my foot since as I've permanently damaged a tendon. They've had to put a screw in there, but I'm fit and ready to go."

NI Children's Hospice regional fundraiser Johnny Breen said: "That a young man like Conor is undertaking to fundraise on behalf of the children who desperately need this help is wonderful.

"So many will benefit from Conor and his climbing teammates' efforts and we are more than grateful for their support."

To donate visit www.justgiving.com and search Conor-Bannon.

Belfast Telegraph

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