An Irish man who has died attempting to reach the summit of Everest did not know his wife had just given birth to a baby girl back home.
John Delaney, 42, from Kilcock, Co Kildare, is understood to have collapsed less than 50 metres from reaching the top and realising his ultimate dream. He is the first Irish man to die on the world’s highest mountain.
The climber, a managing director of an online market prediction company, died on Saturday but because his team was out of contact with base camp during the final stage of the trek it has only just been confirmed.
Mr Delaney – who also had two young sons, Caspar, three, and two-year-old Alexander – died without knowing his wife Orla, 39, gave birth to a girl last Wednesday. She is to be called Hope.
Orla’s brother Liam Hurley said Mr Delaney lived for his family.
“The one person who can describe him best is the one person who can‘t speak at the moment, and that’s Orla,” he said.
“He was a generous, loving guy – the family came first for him. He adored his two children, and he spent as much time as he could with them. It’s just a shame he’s not going to get to meet the third.”
The family’s heartbreak has been compounded by the inability of the expedition team to bring Mr Delaney’s body back from the notorious Himalayan peak. Instead it will remain where he died.
“It would too dangerous to expect people to bring his body back, he was too far up,” said a distraught Mr Hurley. There‘s nothing they can do.“
Mr Delaney and his wife were married five years ago. He had been mountaineering for several years and was attempting to conquer Everest for the second time after a failed bid, also five years ago.
He was originally from Ballinakill, Co Kilkenny, where his mother still lives. He also leaves a brother and a sister. A memorial service will be held at 2pm on Friday at St Brigid’s Church in Ballinakill.
Mr Hurley said his own three brothers and other sister, all from Lucan in Co Dublin, were trying to comfort Orla.
“She‘s not good. We‘re all just trying to spend time with her and we are not leaving her,” he said.
“She just can‘t believe it‘s happened. She was just thinking about when he was coming home, she wasn‘t thinking about anything else.”
Mr Hurley said the young boys don‘t understand what has happened.
“I didn‘t see him as a brother-in-law, I saw him more as a friend,” he added. “We were very close, and he was a very, very good guy. We‘re all going to miss him so much.”
Adventurer Pat Falvey, who knew Mr Delaney and has been in contact with Everest base camp about the tragedy, said the climber was one hour from the summit of his dreams.
“It was so close, yet so far,” he said.
“There‘s not too may words you can put on this, other than shock and devastation. He‘ll rest in peace as near to the heavens as you can get.”
He added: “John was a passionate adventurer that loved challenge and mountains. He will be sadly missed by all his family and friends.”
Mr Delaney was among a team of 18, including another Irish man, from Belfast, another guide, one US and six Russian climbers and eight Sherpas.
They left a camp at 8,300 metres last Friday evening in a bid to scale the final section of the 8,848-metre mountain.
A report from the base camp said all the team were strong and using supplementary oxygen.
Around 1.45am on the Saturday, Mr Delaney – who was travelling with a Sherpa in the middle of the group – was reported to have had problems at 8,800 metres and the lead guide, who had already reached the summit, returned to help him.
A team doctor consulted guides on the ground by radio but repeated attempts to resuscitate Mr Delaney were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at 4.30am. Mr Falvey said it appeared to be a medical condition.
Mr Delaney left for the expedition on April 9 and was due back in Ireland at the end of this month.
It was separate from the team involving Mark Quinn, 26, who became the youngest Irish man to reach the Everest summit at the weekend.
Mr Hurley appealed for Mr Delaney’s family to be given the privacy to deal with their grief.