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McMahons tackle the world’s highest mountain to help Agape House

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Thomas McMahon, left, and son Eoin McMahon will be climbing Mount Everest next week to raise money for Agape House (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

A father and son team are going the extra mile, literally, to raise money for Agape House in Paget.

This week, Thomas McMahon and son Eoin McMahon, plan to climb Mount Everest in Nepal to raise funds for Friends of Hospice, the fundraising arm of the palliative care facility.

“One of my friends in London said a group of his friends were planning to do a hike to the base camp at Mount Everest,” Thomas said. “He asked if I would be interested in doing it.”

But the timing just was not right for Thomas, executive vice-president of Davies Captive Management.

“It was the wrong time of the year, workwise,” he said.

But his friends’ trip was rescheduled to this year due to Covid-19. Once again, the opportunity arose for Thomas to go with them.

“I debated with myself,” the 59 year old said. “Again it is the wrong time of the year, but I have more staff in the office.”

He decided to go on the trip.

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” he said.

There were three spots available in the group of ten, so he invited his son Eoin, 28, to come along.

“You can’t really say no to something like that,” Eoin said.

Eoin’s answer was: “absolutely!”

They head off on their adventure this week. It will take them ten days to reach base camp.

“I have done little bits of hiking, but nothing so ambitious before,” said Eoin, a pricing actuary at Convex.

To prepare for the hike to 17,598ft above sea level, Thomas has been breaking his new hiking books in on the Railway Trail, and also walking hills in Bermuda such as Town Hill, Knapton Hill and Saucos Hill.

“It is amazing the elevation you can get here in Bermuda,” he said. “Two weeks ago I went out and did ten miles and did over 1,100ft in elevation.”

But Eoin teased his father, saying: “Mount Everest is just a little bit more than those hills here.”

Eoin McMahon, left, and father Thomas McMahon, will be climbing Mount Everest next week to raise money for Agape House (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

To train, Eoin has been running and strength training.

“I am trying to build up my legs,” he said. “I fit stuff in around work trips when I can. I was walking up and down the Thames in London, with my boots on the other week trying to break them in on time. So far, not too many blisters. So far, so good.”

The father and son duo were most concerned about the potential for altitude sickness.

“I don’t think I have ever been anywhere as high as that,” Eoin said. “You hear horror stories about altitude sickness, but there is nothing you can do about it.”

“You don’t know how your body will react to it, until you are there,” Thomas said. “It does not matter if you are fit or unfit, it is just about how your body will react to it. We have been skiing at places like Whistler, British Columbia and Vail, Colorado, so we have been at some altitude, but nothing like 17,000ft. I think Vail is around 6,000ft. This will be a challenge.”

He said there is medication you can take when you are there to help with altitude sickness.

“You take it a day or two before you reach the highest altitude,” he said. “It is supposed to help with the symptoms. The symptoms can be fatal if you don’t come back down again in altitude when you get sick.”

The group will be increasing their elevation every day, but will have one or two acclimation days where they are not hiking. They stay at one level to adjust to the higher altitude.

“That is apparently the key to controlling altitude sickness,” Thomas said. “It is also important to climb at a slow pace.”

Once they reach their target, the pair plan to catch a helicopter back down the mountain, rather than trekking back.

The trip is a chance for the father and son to have some bonding time. They have not been on a vacation together in several years.

Thomas joked that if his knees give out, Eoin can carry him the rest of the way.

He is looking forward to seeing a Buddhist monastery that is along the route.

“It is supposed to be very picturesque,” Thomas said. “I am looking forward to that. I love photography. I will have my camera with me. Anything that moves, and some things that don’t move, I will capture. I am also looking forward to interacting with the locals.”

They expect the temperature on the journey will be 50F to 60F during the day, but will go below freezing at night.

“But we will be prepared for the cold temperatures as well,” he said.

Thomas is originally from County Clare, Ireland and came to Bermuda 34 years ago.

Ten years ago his father, also called Thomas, was helped by hospice care in Ireland at the end of his life.

“The treatment he got, and we got as a family, was phenomenal,“ Thomas said.

The experience inspired Thomas to become involved with hospice care in Bermuda.

Since opening in 1991, Agape House has helped more than 2,000 people and their families. It now provides end of life care, a day hospice, meal service and bereavement support for families, among other things.

But now organisers feel the physical plant on Point Finger Road, Paget, is in need of upgrade and expansion.

“People who are in their final days are sharing rooms with other people in the same situation,” Thomas said.

They launched a campaign to raise money for a new facility in January 2020. Then Covid-19 hit.

“Now we are getting ready to relaunch with new plans,” he said.

His hope is that by publicising his mountain hike, he can raise awareness for Agape House, and maybe funds.

“I would love to be able to raise $30 or $40 million, but we know that is not going to happen,” he laughed. “But even $10,000 would be great. We badly need a new hospice on the island.”

To help fund Agape House and its projects, Friends of Hospice recently opened Little Angels, a children’s consignment store on the first floor of the Washington Mall on Reid Street in Hamilton.

For more information, or to make a donation, see www.friendsofhospice.bm or call 232-0859.

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Published April 01, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated April 02, 2022 at 8:17 am)

McMahons tackle the world’s highest mountain to help Agape House

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