Letterkenny businessman Jason Black, who returns to Donegal today after becoming the first Donegal person to reach the summit of Everest, said he hoped his expedition could serve to inspire young people.
“There’s no mountain too high, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved,” Jason told the Democrat/Donegal People’s Press Sunday, speaking from Dublin where he had been reunited with his wife, Sharon, and their children Laura, Kate, Billy and Ella, after six weeks in Nepal.
“We are living in an environment with a lot of gloom and doom. Everyone has their own Everest to climb, whether it is suicide, whether it is depression, whether it is lack of work, lack of money,” Jason said. “But to young people the message is there is nothing that can’t be achieved.
“You need to focus on it, you need to have a plan and you need to chase your dreams,” he said. “Really, that is what I want to bring back to the youth of the county.”
For Jason, his successful summit of Everest last week, reaching the highest point in the world, was also the culmination of a dream he held for many years. Eighty people were granted permission this year to climb the north ridge of Everest, the more difficult ascent, and Jason was one of the 29 who were successful.
Jason and climbing Sherpa Nima Gombu reached the summit on May 19th.
“Everest is not for the fainthearted,” Jason said. “I put in years and years of training physically, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for the mountain. It is something you have to deal with at the time.”
Jason said the challenges of an Everest ascent will bring out any climber’s weaknesses but also bring out their strengths.
“Everest can sniff you out in a heartbeat,” he said. “If there is any underlying issue there at all, it will find it.”
Photos taken at the summit show a jubilant Jason holding a Donegal flag.
“It was a real proud, personal moment to be able to stand on top of the world, and very humbling,” Jason said. In the blog Jason kept as a record of his expedition, he wrote that at the summit he felt that he was standing “closer to my mother and brother, who both passed from this world, and today for a brief moment I felt so reconnected.”
Shed a tear
“I had a moment of weakness -- I did shed a tear,” Jason recalled, speaking with the Democrat.
Jason spoke of a climbing Sherpa named Nangil, who had reached the summit of Everest nine times and twice without oxygen. Jason would see him in camp nearly every day and they would talk over a cup of tea.
“I was always looking for encouragement from him and direction,” Jason said. But on May 15th, Nangil’s body gave out and he died on the mountain.
“It brought home to me the fact that we are mere mortals, and had been given permission to enter this wonderful mountain,” Jason said. While the beauty of Everest is breathtaking, he said it was also “the most ruthless place to be, because it can take your life in a heartbeat.”
A public reception for Jason is expected to take place this evening, at 7.30pm, in Letterkenny’s Market Square.
Jason will also speak about his adventure on Highland Radio tomorrow with Shaun Doherty.
Read more about Jason Black’s incredible Everest expedition in Thursday’s Donegal Democrat.