Hundreds of people have welcomed home the first Irish woman to climb Mount Everest at Cork Airport today.
Clare O’Leary a 32-year-old doctor from Bandon, County Cork, reached the summit of Mount Everest two weeks ago on her second attempt.
“It’s a huge sense of excitement and honour and pride,” she said.
“It was brilliant to sit there and hold the Irish flag.
“It was definitely the best 20-minutes of my life.”
The expedition leader Pat Falvey said he had cried with emotion when she reached the top.
“There were times when she wanted to give up. But we knew she had it in her,” he said.
Schoolchildren waved posters and the St Patrick’s pipe band from Bandon escorted the climbers through the airport.
Ms O’Leary said she was overwhelmed by the welcome.
On a previous expedition last year she had to turn back from the summit of Mount Everest due to altitude sickness.
The Irish Wyeth Everest 2004 expedition arrived in Nepal in March to prepare for the ascent.
They made their way to base camp at 17,500ft up the mountain with 70 yaks, 70 porters, 15 trekkers and five Sherpa guides.
Pat Falvey and Clare O’Leary made the successful ascent on May 18, just before a severe storm that claimed the lives of three climbers.
Miss O’Leary, who had the Irish flag wrapped around her shoulders held up Freddie, the team’s teddy bear mascot to the crowd at Cork Airport.
Ciara Hanlon, an eight-year-old pupil at the Cloughroe National School in Blarney, Cork, said her class had followed the story every day on the Everest expedition website.
“Clare was disappointed the last time but she must be very happy this time,” she said.
The Mayor of Cork City, Colm Burke said the ascent was an inspiration for the children.
“I think Clare has shown wonderful leadership and courage. It’s people like her who help to encourage young people to strive to achieve a goal,” he said.
The Everest expedition team will be honoured at a civic reception in Bandon later today.
Pat Falvey said Miss O’Leary’s climb was also an inspiration for anyone who wanted to achieve a goal in life.
“Everyone has an Everest, it is all about persistence,” he said.
Last Thursday a second Irish woman, Samantha Carroll, reached the summit of Mount Everest.