A Fermanagh native has recently completed one of the most difficult climbing challenges in the world, receiving the accolade of being the first man in Ireland to do ‘Everesting’ solo.

Paul O’Loughlin (pictured), who is originally from Belleek but currently lives in Claudy, undertook the ‘Everesting’ challenge by bicycle, picking a hill on the outskirts of Ballyshannon and riding repeats of it until he had climbed 8,848 metres - the equivalent height of Mount Everest.

A lecturer at South West College (SWC), Paul was raising money for the College’s charity ‘The Education Foundation for South Sudan’ to build a school in South Sudan, a foundation SWC started last year in line with the opening of the new Erne Campus.

When asked why he decided to take on the Everesting challenge, Paul told this newspaper: “Some friends of mine had done the challenge a few years ago, I spoke to them about it and I decided that I would give it a go but do it solo because as far as I’m aware nobody else in Ireland has ever done it solo before.” He added: “So I said I’d give it a shot.”

Paul began the challenge on Friday, August 23 at 6am and cycled through the night, completing the full distance by the evening of Saturday, August 24.

Explaining that although he was embarking on the challenge solo, Paul highlighted how he was surrounded by a “very good team” of support: “Obviously there has been a lot of planning for many months and having a very good team of people around me who looked after me on the day because you basically hand yourself over to that team when it starts.”

He continued: “So I was up around 4am and then I started around 6am. Most of the team were there from the very start and most of them were there right through to the very end and that’s a very important aspect of it because obviously there is health and safety with regards to how I am and my state of health all the time.

“They are experienced in that and they looked after me.”

During the challenge, Paul had to record how many repeats he had done and the distance he had climbed using a device attached to his bicycle, however he ran into a slight technical difficulty mid-challenge.

He said: “Technically speaking it was recognising as 197 repeats but unfortunately one of the devices I was using stopped at 41 repeats until 44 and that meant at the end I had to do another three or four.

“I ended up doing around 200 repeats.”

Unfazed by having to undertake extra repeats, Paul added: “I knew those wee glitches could happen when you’re working with technology. That’s it, that’s part of life.”

Overall the Everesting challenge took Paul 33 hours to complete. “You are allowed to stop to eat and drink, and during the night a friend of mine came down and gave me a sports massage to get as much of the lactic acid out of my legs to keep me going,” he said.

He continued: “I had hoped to do it in 36 hours but the weather conditions were pretty kind and the wind was pretty kind to me too. I would’ve been happy at 36 but I’m more than happy at 33.”

“When I finished it there was quite a lot of support there from local people who knew me and people from the college so there could have been 40 or 50 people there at the end. I was exhausted but elated,” Paul added.

Paul has been raising funds for The Education Foundation for South Sudan through a Just Giving page and so far he has raised just over £1,000. To donate to the cause visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/everesting-for-south-sudan.

When asked how he felt after he had completed the endurance challenge, Paul commented: “It was a nice feeling because I had such a good team around me and you actually enjoy it. It’s hard to understand that but it is something that I really, really enjoyed.”