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On top of the world

Dublin man sets off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in bid to climb each continent's highest mountain

Derek Mahon from Dublin climbed Mount Everest in 2014.

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AN IRISH MAN kicked off his journey this week to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in his bid to scale the highest summit on each of the seven continents of the world.

55-year-old Derek Mahon from Dublin had never attempted to climb a mountain before 2012. Since then, he has climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mont Blanc in The Alps.

In 2014, he took on his biggest adventure to date and reached the peak of Mount Everest.

Biggest challenge to date

This week, the father-of-three left Ireland to tackle his next challenge. He plans to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, raising money for the community-based mental health charity GROW, of which he’s an ambassador.

Situated in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, standing at 5,895 metres. Climbers have to face the tough climates and terrains to reach the summit, including rainforest, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers.

To date, the summit success rate is just 60%.

Mahon told how he shifted from climbing smaller mountains to ones like Mont Blanc and Mount Everest.

“[My mum] was always very interested when I was trekking mountains and she always loved to see my pictures. She used to say ‘I would love to go up with you’,” Mahon said.

“When my mum passed away, I hadn’t got that to share anymore but I took great comfort in knowing she would always be with me.

When I decided to go to climb the bigger mountains, that was my inspiration to push onto further and bigger mountains. Given that I couldn’t show her these things, I could take her spiritually.

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The inspiration Mahon’s mother left him with gave him the motivation to climb larger mountains, but it was only when he climbed Mount Everest that Mahon decided to take on climbing the world’s seven highest summits.

“I was dying to return to Everest next year but when I thought about either doing that or other mountains, the appeal of going to other places and climbing other mountains of significance shifted my focus to trying to climb the seven summits,” he explained.

It wasn’t a matter of let’s stop there, I wanted to push on for myself but also then I wanted to push on and be an ambassador for mental health.

Mental health activism 

Mahon explained that he chose to get involved in mental health activism after seeing the first-hand effects mental health could have on people.

“I had come across people who had suffered from mental health and one person, in particular, had come across the [GROW] support groups that are dotted around Ireland and, as he recovered, he explained the 12 steps to recovery,” Mahon told 

“When I was started to climb, I realised the steps to the summit are like the steps to recovery.”

GROW is Ireland’s largest community-based mental health organisation. It holds 120 peer-support groups across Ireland each week.

The groups follow a practical, 12-step programme, providing mutual support to anyone experiencing mental health difficulties. From there, Mahon signed up to be a mental health ambassador for GROW.

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The organisation’s chief executive, Michele Kerrigan said:

“The challenges which lie ahead for Derek during this arduous climb are similar in many respects to the challenges faced by people who struggle on a daily basis with their mental well-being.

“GROW’s recovery programme prepares people to take small, but very significant and practical steps towards achieving their ultimate goal of personal recovery.”

Mahon lives in Naul, north county Dublin with his wife Michelle and three boys. He has worked for financial markets for over 20 years.

He said that people have accused him of being in a midlife crisis because of his ambitions, but he insisted that isn’t the case.

I am positive, ambitious and driven. Too many people don’t encourage, don’t help or support others to achieve their dreams and goals.

To support Mahon on his journey and to raise funds for GROW, click here. 

Read: Two Irishmen reach summit of Mount Everest

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