L-R - Shaun Stewart and Lonan O’Farrell. Photo by Paul Doherty Photography
Donegal native Shaun Stewart and Galway native Lonan O’Farrell took on a challenge that not many even consider yet undertake to do.
They climbed 26 of Ireland’s highest peaks, covering 32 counties in Ireland over 3 days beating the fastest known time of 87 hours 50 minutes by an amazing 27 hours and 15 mins.
On Thursday morning last Shaun Stewart and Lonan O’Farrell started their challenge at Mweelrea Mountain in Co. Mayo, they travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, covering every single county, climbed 26 of Ireland’s highest peaks, finishing last Saturday evening at the peak of Errigal Mountain in Co. Donegal when their time was recorded at an astonishing 60 hours 35 minutes.
It takes mental and physical ability for any athlete to take on an endurance challenge like this one, but these guys, proved that they were fit for the job. They knew that it would be challenging but they were determined to complete it and they did. Shaun and Lonan both took part in the 2017 Race adventure challenge last month & finished 2nd & 4th respectively.
Galway man Lonan flying (almost literally) on Errigal. Photo by Paul Doherty Photography
They met over four years ago as competitors but quickly became great friends with the same passion and drive and last year they raced in the same team at the Itera Expedition Race another tough endurance challenge. Before the Race 2017, they knew they would like to undertake to do something else but together as a team and for charity.
A challenge to beat the fastest known time by climbing all of Ireland’s 26 peaks over 32 counties was probably the biggest challenge they could imagine facing and doing so this is what they decided to do, gathered an amazing team and they did it!
Commenting on the challenge Shaun Stewart said “We knew that taking on this 32 counties – 26 peaks challenge was going to be a really tough test both physically and mentally for us both. Apart from the climbing and running, the major challenges we did face were lack of sleep and recovery time. Over the 60hrs 35mins from start to finish, both Lonan and myself had less than 4 hrs sleep. In order to set a really fast time it was necessary to go non stop, so eating and sleeping had to be on the go and in between climbs.”
Shaun on his way to the peak on Errigal Mountain. Photo Paul Doherty Photography
Fastest known time
Shaun and Lonan undertook to do this challenge not only to aim to beat the fastest known time but to raise money for two worthy charities. Our ladies Hospital for Sick Children & Play Therapy Centre, Lakeview School, in Co. Galway, a therapy centre where children in need of emotional or physchological help can get the support and therapy they require. The money raised to date for both charities has exceeded their expectations and they are overwhelmed by the generosity and support they have received from all over Ireland and across the world.
Commenting further Shaun said, “The weather was favourable over the three days and that meant that navigation was a little easier with clearer skies. We cannot believe how many of our adventure racing friends from all across the country turned up at different mountains to help pace and guide us. The support and generosity everywhere we went was unreal and to them we are so grateful.”
"Without a strong, practical and knowledgeable team behind a challenge like this, what we achieved and the record we broke could not have happened. The logistics and planning for this challenge was vitally important. We set out a very ambitious schedule and we managed to hit most targets. Our sponsors, our team and our crew made it possible to achieve our record time, delivering us safely to the start point of each climb, preparing food and keeping us motivated at every stage of every day and night, meant that all we had to do was climb the peaks and concentrate on the challenge.”
“We realise now that the challenge would not have run as smooth without the support of our organiser and main sponsor Donegal Oil Company's, Arthur McMahon. Arthur's input to the organising and logistics was invaluable. A true professional with a passion for what we were doing and with help from Rory Kennedy, they mapped out the fastest route for this challenge which took alot of planing time beforehand. Arthur and Shaun Doherty travelled with us for the first half of the challenge and then they were replaced by Denis Ferry and Leslie O’Donnell from Donegal Ice Road Trekkers who made sure we drove the planned and quickest route to each peak. We are so grateful to them all, they certainly looked after us & kept us on our toes!” says Shaun.
Lonan O’Farrell commented, “The event was one that took a full on team effort. I had some pretty massive lows during the second day with major travel sickness and sleep deprivation. However, with help from the team and a big push I came through it and we enjoyed some really high points along the rest of the way.”
Arthur McMahon from Donegal Oil Company and main sponsor for the event said: “Shaun and Lonan are magnificent athletes, completely hard core. They maintained their determination, rested when possible, ate well when possible and, above all, kept their spirits up.
“The support crew, without whom this would not have happened, did an outstanding job.
Denis Ferry from Donegal Ice Road Trekkers commented, "We had planned a while ago that at 15.24 on the Friday Leslie O' Donnell and I would take over from Arthur and Shaun at peak number 11, Kippure, Co. Dublin. We left Letterkenny at 11.30am and the hand over was complete at 15.23pm. Les and I thought how amazing the boys had done by sticking to the schedule with such accuracy.
“Arthur and Shaun Doherty had done a brilliant job and they handed over the maps, gps units, a tidy van and most importantly two athletes who were in top form despite having been already 30 hours on the road. We knew that Arthur and Shaun Doherty did much more than drive and navigate, they encouraged Shaun and Lonan when no one else was there and kept spirits and their motivation flowing."
“The high point for us was seeing the boys faces in the rear view mirror as we approached Errigal Mountain, the low point was finishing, because now it’s all over but our best point was everyone doing what they had to do and did so showing admiration and respect for everyone on the team.” concluded Denis.
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Arthur McMahon, Donegal Oil Company, Colm Dillon, Manor Motors Opel our crew Denis Ferry, Paul Doherty and Leslie O’Donnell from Donegal Ice Road Trekkers, Rory Kennedy, Shaun Doherty, our families, our friends, everyone who donated to our charities, everyone who came & helped & gave us support along the way,, Shane Young from Killary Adventure who supplied us with a boat to cross the Killary fjord, in Connemara, Paul Doherty photographer who climbed to the top of Errigal Mountain to capture amazingly stunning shots Grace Ann McGarvey for her media coverage, Crumlin Children’s Hospital for helping us set up the online charity page, Play Therapy Centre, Lakeview School in Galway, everyone who made it to the final peak and celebrated our finish at Errigal Mountain, Co. Donegal on Saturday evening and just everyone who helped make this possible, gave us advice & huge support.”