What I love the most about mountaineering is the freedom and the off-grid experience. Success comes with effort and some element of pain – to be able to push through the pain barrier and the threshold wall, the human body needs to be capable of incredible things. The people you meet are great, as anyone on these treks is usually of a similar mindset. The countries you go to are superb, and the mountain trails are off the beaten track and majestic. It’s a chance to unwind and relax. While I’m able, I’m going to do as many of the Seven Summits as I can (although I might need to be sponsored for Everest – but make no mistake, if I got a sniff of an opportunity to do it, I’d be there yesterday. So Elon Musk, if you’re reading this, feel free to give me a grant!).
My name is Andy Nolan and I am currently employed as a Probe Process Engineer with Analog Devices in Limerick. I work in the Probe Engineering section of the supply chain. Analog Devices is a semiconductor manufacturing company specializing in data conversion, signal processing, and power management technology, headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts. It employs 1,200 people at its Irish hub and is also home to Analog’s European-based Research and Development center and Ireland’s global operations manufacturing facility. Over the years, we have moved from being simply a component-offering company to one that now partners more with our customers in order to offer them a complete high-performance solution. Among the many diverse and niche markets we supply to, the main ones are industrial, healthcare, consumer, communications infrastructure, and automotive electronics markets. In mid-2020, the organisation announced a merger with Maxim Integrated. This is an exciting step in Analog’s exciting journey to bridge the physical and digital worlds, and has the organisation well-placed to deliver the next wave of semiconductor growth and work towards a more sustainable future for everyone.
My career started off in 1998 in Dell Computers, where I learned a general appreciation for high volume manufacturing. I then started in Analog, a semiconductor company in 2002 as a general operator – I’ve been there ever since. My hunger and desire to learn more about the semiconductor industry and supply chain led me to have a couple of different roles (operator/coordinator/technician/supply chain planner/engineer) in the last 19 years here. I was also inspired to go back to college to add an academic kudos to my industry experience. My goal was to obtain multiple technical qualifications, which include a BEng/BA/B.Sc. I am also due to begin a journey towards a DEng (Engineering Doctorate) in mid-2021.
Outside of work, I love mountaineering and have climbed two of the world’s Seven Summits: Kilimanjaro and Elbrus. Fitness came to be later in life at age 36, approximately 5 years ago – running came first. I think the impending challenge of a mid-life crisis drove me to fitness. I was never particularly fit when I was younger, and other than a few years at Tae Kwon Do and a bit of rugby, I was largely sedentary. I started by completing a lot of local hikes (Keeper Hill is very close to where I live) and walking; I started running circa early 2016.
The main individual who inspires me with fitness and climbing is my sister Eileen. Approximately 15 months ago, she was diagnosed with a large cranial tumour mass, pretty much front and center of her head. Then Covid struck, and this derailed her operation multiple times. Her courage and love for life, her kids, and her family kept her as cheerful as anyone I’ve ever met, despite the pain and discomfort the cancer had brought. Now, 15 months later, after an extensive operation to remove the mass coupled with aggressive targeted radiotherapy, she has finally turned a corner and can start to build her strength back up and get back on track with her life. Her strength both physically and mentally was amazing; there is no way that I would have been as strong. Retrospectively, to have been able to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society and then to see the effects that cancer can have on a family made me feel lucky that I was able to give a tiny bit back via a few quid for an amazing organisation. No matter how hard a run or endurance event gets for me, I can draw inspiration to never give up and keep going because of my sister’s story, and specifically her strength and resilience. Anyone struggling with any physical or non-physical illness are the real inspirations here. I am currently working with Laura Lynn this year for Aconcagua. I have signed up for Ray Darcy’s Marathon-a-Week Challenge and hope to add the mountain climb to this also. So if anyone wants to throw in a few quid, the link is here: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11395726_andy-nolan—lauralynn-fundraiser.html.
I decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in early 2018, and I went in August 2018. Elbrus was planned in December 2018, and I went in July 2019. Aconcagua was supposed to be in January 2021, but Covid intervened. I flipped it to January 2022, which is the optimum month to climb this summit.
It was in a blurry haze on a night out that I took the plunge and booked a climbing trip to Kilimanjaro. I have been musing about it for years, and something seemed to be stopping me from cementing the challenge and taking the step to book it and lock myself in. I guess I wanted to see if I could test myself on the bigger stage. Kilimanjaro is one of the 7 Summits, and the whole 7 Summit challenge appealed to me (7 Summits are the tallest mountains per continent.) After it, I had to redefine what I called “The trip of a lifetime.” That phrase is used frequently by most when they talk about their travels and holidays, and I don’t think people really comprehend the extent of what that phrase means unless you complete a trip that’s really special. Climbing Kilimanjaro was the most fantastic and humbling experience – I met some fantastic people in our group, which made the trek easier. I would like to say they are thoroughly professional human beings, and that made all the difference to the overall experience. The porters were amazing human beings, and I am left with a sense of awe and amazement for what they did for us on this trek – each and every one of them willed us on to succeed at every opportunity, and to their credit, we all summited.
Here all some highlights of my trek to Kilimanjaro (my entire documentation of the journey is included in this blog – https://otia.io/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Kilimanjaro_Final_Blog.pdf):
- Day 3 – First View of Kilimanjaro: The terrain that day was stoney, a little arid, and not too steep. We were, however, on a gradual ascent from the get-go – you could see you were also visibly above the clouds, and it was immense. It felt like I was perched on nature’s ultimate pedestal, surveying all around me in grand splendour!
- Day 8 – Setting off For the Summit: It was weird hiking in the dark – there was nothing to be seen other than the lights of the headlamps for our motley crew and at least a couple of hundred other daredevils all eager to summit in their respective groups. It really was a team effort.
- We all trickled our way to the top in groups and touched the famous sign – we had made it. People were emotional and hugging. All those months of training, the long week’s trekking; this was it. On top of the world (well, on top of Africa at least).
- We left Uhuru Point at around 8.30 a.m. – there were loads of porters and they offered a normal way down or a “fast” way down. I was feeling “fan-bloody-tastic!”, so I asked for a fast way down. We ran/slid from Uhuru Peak for 5kms to Kosovo camp. It was exhilarating – took 57 minutes exactly. It was such good fun, like skiing without skis!
- Day 9 – The sunrise and backdrop of Kilimanjaro were unbelievable. We gave some gifts to the porters – I gave away my thermarest/hiking poles/gaiters to Fuso/Barack/Benjamin.
Climbing Mt Elbrus was a different animal – if Kilimanjaro was the starter, Elbrus was the main course. It made Kilimanjaro look like a 4-star hotel by comparison. I am a firm believer that in order to consider an activity in which you achieve something not to be considered a “fluke”, then you need to accomplish that type of activity at least twice. Elbrus is notably regarded as a sterner test than Kilimanjaro. I used the event to also raise some money for the Irish Cancer Society, having worked with ICS for Kilimanjaro. As well as raising money for a great cause, part of me wanted to say that I had climbed 2 of the 7 Summits. It simply appealed to me, and I if didn’t attempt a second summit (while one of them would still be a decent accomplishment), it would always be niggling away at me that at some point, I would have to prove myself again. Anything hard must be earned and, as the old saying goes, “if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it”.
The Elbrus route we took is considered the hardest. For the north route, you need to carry all your gear to camp 1 from base camp. It’s steep and difficult; the terrain depends on weather conditions, which also makes it tricky. It includes the steep ascent from camp 1 to the summit – typically a long drawn out summit night, very much weather-dependent, crossing glacier fields, deep snow in places (3/4 foot), fixed-line trekking, and potential crevasses. You go from ~8000 feet at base camp to 18.5K feet, with a 6k+ feet push for summit night. The summit attempt was a gruelling ~ 18-hour affair, which typically starts from 1/2 a.m.
Here all some highlights of my trek to Elbrus (my entire documentation of the journey is included in this blog – https://otia.io/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Elbrus_Trip_Blog_1.pdf):
- 8 July – This was the snow skills portion of the trip, which took approximately 4 hours. Walking in crampons is definitely unusual at first, but you quickly adapt once you gain confidence. We practised different ways of traversing on the snow: zig zag, using the front of crampon, side, heel, etc. We also practised falling down a slope and using the ice axe with correct positioning to arrest the fall. We finally finished with an obstacle course.
- 11 July – I woke up to absolutely howling winds; I thought our abode would blow away. I still got dressed and went outside to have a look. The winds were very strong, maybe 50/60 kph. It didn’t look good for our trek to the summit.
- 14 July – The climb was sort of like a never-ending story: we could see the end of it, but no matter how much we hiked, it always seemed out of reach. There was some snow here, and we were roped into teams of 4 in case of any crevasse falls. The temperature much have been negative 20/25 Degrees Celsius, with wind chill and easily 50-60kph winds.
- It seemed like hours, but we made it to the end and went on our rode to Lenz Rock. It was a tough descent in general; the snowstorm was really blowing up at this point. We eventually made it back at 7 p.m., with my feet absolutely killing me from the boots. I remember screaming lightly as I took them off – my feet were battered. But we did it!
- In total, the summit climb took 18 hours from start to finish – 12.5 hours up and 5.5 hours down.
Climbing Kilimanjaro and Elbrus are the achievements that you will be telling other people down your local watering hole in years to come, when old age finally sets in, when your once “fit” physique makes way for middle-age spread, when you look like you can barely climb the stairs, let alone a 7 Summit – these are the stories and the memories that you will regale to your grandkids. Before we shuffle off this mortal coil, is it not a good thing to test ourselves? I definitely think so. I loved every bit of both my climbs – the harder, the better. The challenge is the best and most rewarding part of any journey.
My future goal with climbing is to do the other 5 Summits, but I would likely need sponsorship for Everest and the Antarctica ones (Again, Elon Musk – listen up). Each one would be to partner with a charity – someone should gain from doing any of these endeavours, and people have raised more money for less effort, so I want to use these climbs to do as much good as possible.
My advice to anyone interested in climbing either Elbrus or Kilimanjaro is to do your research on the mountain. Get the right gear. Try to find someone who was completed it and get advice. If targeting any of the 7 Summits, start with Kilimanjaro, then see if it’s for you. Elbrus is normally the second one done, or else Kosciuszko in Australia (as you can do this in a day trip – only a major summit by virtue of it being in Australia, as it’s not that tall). For physical fitness, I think cardio is important (for me, it was hiking and running). You should build some strength in your legs also and be able to comfortably carry a load on your back, so start off with 5/10 kg. The trick to altitude climbing is going very slow and steady, so that you acclimatize. Everyone gets there if you follow the basic rules.
There is always more than tech. Technology is at the core of everything. Technology is life itself, but you need to explore what’s outside of it to find out what’s inside of you. If you asked me at age 36 would I be climbing mountains abroad and running marathons, then I’d say “definitely not”. Take the leap and push your internal boundaries; limitations should not exist personally or professionally. If you succeed, then you succeed. If you fail, then you fail. But you will learn from the positive or the negative, and this is real progress.
For a complete documentation of Andrew’s trip to Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, be sure to read his blogs here: