Clare O’Leary, Irish gastroenterologist, mountain climber and adventurer, becomes the first Irishwoman to successfully climb Mount Everest on May 18, 2004. She is accompanied by veteran mountaineer, Pat Falvey, who also sets a record by becoming the first Irishman to climb Everest from both sides.
O’Leary is born in 1972. She develops an interest in medicine, and cancer in particular, when her uncle dies from lung cancer during her childhood. After graduating from University College Cork, she spends over ten years training and working at the Cork University Hospital.
O’Leary makes her name in mountaineering in 2004, when she becomes the first Irish woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, having failed on her first attempt in 2003 due to gastroenteritis. She climbs as a member of the Wyeth Irish Everest Expedition, led by Falvey. She also becomes the first Irish woman to ascend the Himalayan peak Ama Dablam and to climb the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each continent. In 2008, she joins the Beyond Endurance expedition led by Falvey to the South Pole, making her the first woman to successfully ski to the South Pole.
In 2012, O’Leary and Mike O’Shea set out on an ongoing series of expeditions that they call the Ice Project. Their aim is to cross all of the world’s largest ice caps. Some of these expeditions include crossings of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the Greenland ice sheet, and Lake Baikal. In 2014, they attempt to ski to the North Pole after their first attempt in 2012 is cancelled due to a logistics problem, hoping to be the first Irish people to reach the North Pole. This attempt also has to be abandoned after they are injured in a sled accident.
In 2013, the railway path between Bandon and Innishannon in County Cork is named the Dr. Clare O’Leary Walk to commemorate her achievements. In November 2018, she is awarded an honorary doctorate by National University of Ireland Galway.
O’Leary lives in Clonmel, and is in a relationship with O’Shea. She currently works as a consultant gastroenterologist and general physician at South Tipperary General Hospital. She is also a patron of the Cork University Hospital Charity.