Olivia Giltenane: Home from Kilimanjaro to captain Limerick footballers

Jerome O'Connell


Jerome O'Connell



Olivia Giltenane: Home from Kilimanjaro to captain Limerick footballers

Olivia Giltenane on Kilimanjaro

OLIVIA Giltenane captains Limerick in Sunday’s TG4 All Ireland Ladies Football Championship qualifier with Wicklow.

Remarkably less than two weeks ago, the Mungret St Pauls stalwart stood on top of Kilimanjaro at 19,341 ft - over five times the height of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil.

“Hopefully the altitude training will pay off – it really was brining altitude training to a new level,” she joked this week after her fund-raising venture for Pieta House.

Giltenane’s journey to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa, started last September and ended in the early hours of Monday July 10.

“A Waterford man called Enda O’Doherty carried a washing machine from Belfast to Waterford last year to send out a positive mental health message and raise funds for Pieta House. This year he set out to raise €120,000 and looked for 30 people to join him and raise €4,000 each by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania,” explains Giltenane.

A fancy dress disco, sponsored climb of Keeper Hill and Colours Day in Colaiste na Trocaire Rathkeale (where she teaches) were among her fund-raising events but on top of that fitness training was required.

“From the outset I had Colette O’Grady, Catherine Murphy and Liz Leonard, who jumped at the chance to help me train and we got out at least once a month for a 7-8 hour hike and did Carrauntoohil and Mount Brandon and others. I also used the altitude gym in Ballysimon, where I trained with Darragh Droog – this was a big help to me and something others in the group didn’t have,” outlined the 30 year old.

All that planning and preparation went hand-in-hand with Ladies Football. After winning promotion last year, the Kevin Denihan managed Limerick played in Division Three of the Lidl National Football League. Limerick found the step-up tough at times but Giltenane was still named in the Team of the League – her third time for such an accolade.

The defender, now in her 15th season with the county team, played in the Munster IFC – losing to Clare (May 13) and Tipperary (June 3) – before turning attention to Mount Kilimanjaro.

”We flew out on July 3 and we started hiking on July 5. There were 35 of us – 30 climbers and then support staff, including a doctor,” she explains.

“Each day was mapped out for us – we had about 6-7 hours hiking to reach our daily camp. It was very difficult as a whole – we were up each day at sunrise and then leave camp at 8.30am. Some of the hiking was very slow but the days passed quickly enough.”

She added: “As we got higher – altitude sickness was an issue and people had problems breathing, headaches and diarrhoea”.

“An area called Barranco Wall was the toughest. That was proper climbing on your hands and knees for about six hours.”

“Summit day was the toughest,” she explained.

Due to the soaring day time temperatures, the final push for the summit was in darkness.

“”We only had head torches and all we could see were the feet in front of us. It was so slow, you would take one step and then have to stop to catch your breath. I almost fell asleep it was so slow and tiring and seemingly that is a sign of altitude sickness. At the top I was wrecked but not as bad as some others. I do remember the heat was fierce. I had seven layers on and one of the support staff had to pull off some of my clothes. I just sat there on rock taking in oxygen. I remember the final walk to the summit and to the left were ice glazers and to the right the sun was coming up,” she recalled.

“That was a 16-hour day to get to the summit and back down to our camp for the night but it was an experience to last a lifetime. The summit is a bit of a blur – I didn’t have too much energy, it was a surreal experience.”

She added: “Enda (O’Doherty) didn’t actually make it to the summit – he got acute mountain sickness on day two but the men and women in the group took turns to bring the fridge to the summit to continue his quest to spread a positive mental health message of ‘Share The Load’”.

“It was without doubt one of the most magnificent teams I was very part of – we went out a group, became a team and came home a family,” said the Mungret woman, who was the only Limerick person on the climb.

“We have raised just shy of €170,000 collectively for Pieta House. If someone is suffering from a mental illness and needs help, please reach out ask for help and share the load by calling Pieta House free helpline 1800247247.”

Giltenane returned home last Friday, just as news was breaking of the death of a Cork woman on Kilimanjaro.

“My condolences to the family of Majella Duffy – what a sad tragedy. We only heard that news as we got home and it really hit me how lucky I was and everyone in our group to get home in one piece. It brought home to me just how difficult it all was and the dangers involved,” she said.

This Sunday (2.00) Giltenane’s focus returns to Ladies Football – over 7,000 miles from Tanzania, Crettyard, Co Laois is the venue for Limerick v Wicklow in the preliminary round of the TG4 All Ireland intermediate championship. Clare await the winners on July 29/30.

Olivia’s fund-raising page for Pieta House remains open online and donations can be made on www.pieta-challenge-2017.everydayhero.com/ie/olivia-giltenane-takes-on-kilimanjaro-for-pieta-house-1.