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'Summit night was hell on earth' - Ferris scales Kilimanjaro in aid of injured players

The former Ireland flanker was joined by Mike McCarthy, Shane Byrne and Marcus Horan.

STEPHEN FERRIS FACED many uphill tasks during his rugby-playing days but climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last month was the toughest thing he’s ever done.

The former Ireland and Ulster back row took on the challenge as part of a 32-person group that also included fellow former players Marcus Horan, Shane Byrne and Mike McCarthy, with the money they raised – close to €200,000 – going to the IRFU Charitable Trust, which supports seriously injured rugby players.

Ferris and co. hit an altitude of 5895m when they reached Uhuru Peak and the experience is something the 35-times capped flanker won’t forget quickly, as he told this week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

“It was very, very tough,” said Ferris. “I’m sure Shane, Marcus and Mike would back that up.

“The physical side, having to walk between six and 10 hours a day, was tough for the body but it was more the mental side of things – the sleep deprivation, sharing a tent with Mike McCarthy, and the food as well.

“The summit night was hell on earth, to be honest. I got a bit of a sore head and was short of breath [from the altitude] and you’re pretty exhausted. You start walking at midnight and we reached the peak at 7.03am. 

“We were expecting this beautiful sunrise but we got up there and it was freezing cold with blizzard-like conditions at times!”

All 32 of the party made it to the peak and back down safely, and Ferris appreciated the “amazing achievement of getting to the top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world.”

The fact that all proceeds raised from the trip went to such a worthy cause made any hardship worthwhile.

“The IRFU Charitable Trust supports seriously injured rugby players who might have suffered serious injury and ended up paralysed or with life-threatening injuries and require treatment on a daily basis year in, year out,” said Ferris.

“Standing in the airport and some of the people who are supported by the IRFU Charitable Trust were there.

“One guy was in his wheelchair waving us off and that’s the reality of it. That’s what can happen, even if you don’t hear about it in club rugby or schools rugby.

“I played in an Irish U21s match in Donnybrook many moons ago and Matt Hampson was on the bench that day. He went on to fracture his neck and unfortunately is paralysed from the neck down and has gone on to set up the Matt Hampson Foundation.

“I’ve seen first-hand how quickly things can change in life when it comes to rugby players, so it’s a great cause. All that hard work and hard graft and lack of sleep and rubbish food, it’s all worth it when you see what’s coming out the back end of it.”

Elsewhere on this week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella were joined by Bernard Jackman to analyse how Ireland need to improve after naming their team to face Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The lads discussed Ireland’s team changes, their defence and ball-carrying against England, where they can target Scotland, and more.

This week’s episode also looks at Ireland Women’s defeat to England, the Ireland U20s’ superb win against the English and all the rest of the Six Nations action ahead of another big weekend.

For all of that and more, check out this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly on iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.


Subscribe to our new podcast, The42 Rugby Weekly, here:

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