Irish explorer to tackle ice cap amid Nepal aid work

Mike O'Shea. Picture: Facebook

He may be about to tackle the treacherous Greenland ice cap, but resourceful Irish explorer Mike O’Shea has vowed to continue spearheading relief efforts in Nepal on his latest expedition.

Mr O’Shea, from Dingle, Co Kerry, and Cork-born Clare O’Leary are part of a six-person international dog-sledding team who will attempt to traverse the perilous 575km ice sheet — the world’s second-largest ice mass outside of Antarctica — on Wednesday.

But ever since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal, the seasoned adventurer has been busily working behind the scenes organising relief efforts to two remote Himalayan villages that were ripped apart by the natural disaster.

Mr O’Shea, 45, is involved in the Himalayan Stove Project, a charity that provides stoves to impoverished families in rural Nepal.

And he said he will continue to monitor relief efforts with his team on the ground in Nepal during his three-week crossing of frozen Greenland.

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He said: “The situation is just devastating in Nepal and there are a lot of places that the bigger charities just can’t access, but which we can with our people on the ground over there.

“We’re concentrating on two villages, called Gumpa Thang and Megre, both which have about 400 people by getting our people out there to bring stoves to them. The stoves are a lifeline, because they provide heating and cooking. They’re needed more than ever, because people have been left without shelter or food and in the more remote areas.

“I’ll certainly be monitoring things and keeping in contact while in Greenland and the devastation there has given me an even bigger incentive to complete this expedition.”

Mr O’Shea, whose whose past feats include crossing the treacherous Patogonian ice cap and the 640km frozen Lake Baikal, also said his upcoming adventure could be his most perilous yet, as the six-person dog-sledding team will face strong storms, temperatures of -30C and prowling polar bears.

“We’re very well prepared for this, but there are some very real risks we will face, like polar bears. Also, the temperatures can get as low as -30C and when you consider the temperature of a freezer is about -18C, that will tell you how cold it is. It’s a very wet cold that gets into your bones.

“As well as that, there will be very strong winds and horrific storms, which could quickly rip your tent away. If we lose a tent we’ll be in big trouble, because we are not carrying any spare ones.

“Cravasses are also a big danger, as you can end up with rivers in the afternoons and early evenings. And if we do run into problems, we could be about 300km away from the nearest town and the weather would need to be on our side for a rescue helicopter to be able to reach us.”

Mr O’Shea, who has also completed the Southern Kilimanjaro ice cap with Mr O’Leary as part of the team’s ice project, insisted his experienced team — which includes the Norwegian female dog-sledding champion — are well prepared, and have even earmarked five hours of every day for melting water for cooking.

Their primary focus in the coming days will be to access the ice cap, which is becoming increasingly difficult due to the extreme melting that is taking place each year.

www.iceproject.org

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