(17 Jun 2008)
Grania Willis, who only started climbing in February of 2004, became the first Irish woman to summit Everest from the north side when she reached the top of the world's highest mountain on June 5, 2005.
A former international three-day event rider, Grania has been equestrian correspondent of The Irish Times since 1980. Two serious riding accidents resulted in life-threatening internal injuries and a broken back, bringing her competition career to a premature end, but her determination to overcome these physical setbacks eventually put her on top of the world.
She cut her high-altitude climbing teeth in September 2004, just seven months after she started climbing, when she became the first Irish woman to summit the Himalayan peak Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world.
Climbing Everest was certainly not a life-long ambition. The decision was sparked by a mountain flight along the Himalayan range during a charity fundraising walk in Nepal in March 2002. She quit her job with The Irish Times 18 months later and, the following February, started climbing with the aim of tackling Everest in the spring of 2005 in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Friends of St Lukes Hospital.
Not only did she make it to the summit, she also sent twice weekly stories and pictures back to The Irish Times and did regular radio reports on the Gerry Ryan Show throughout the expedition - proving that women really can multi-task!
In March 2007, Grania teamed up with Ian McKeever and the pair became the first Irish climbers to reach the summit of Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia. In June 2007, Grania was awarded honorary life membership of the Royal Dublin Society.
Grania is a popular inspirational speaker and has spoken to a variety of audiences such as Microsoft, Sanofi-Aventis, the Small Firms Association (SFA) , Meath Sports Partnership, Irish College of General Practitioners (ICPG), CCIS amongst many others.