On this day in 2008, adventurer and medical consultant Clare O'Leary became the first Irish woman to reach the South Pole
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On this day in 2008, adventurer and medical consultant Clare O'Leary became the first Irish woman to reach the South Pole

ON THE 8th of January 2008, Cork native Clare O'Leary became the first Irish woman to reach the South Pole.

The doctor, mountain climber and adventurer already had a few  records under her belt at this point, being the first Irish woman to climb Mount Everest and the Himalayan peak Ama Dablam as well as completing the Seven Summits-- the highest mountains on each of the world's seven continents.

At the age of 35, the qualified gastroenterologist consultant set out on the Beyond Endurance expedition to reach the South Pole, led by prominent polar explorer Pat Falvey.

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The team, made up of Dr O'Leary and Mr Falvey along with Jonathan bradshaw and Shaun Menzies, undertook the two-month long expedition braving some of the harshest environments on the planet, with sub-zero temperatures and constant snowstorms along with heavy equipment elevating the already treacherous journey.

Speaking to The Irish Times after the team's arrival at the South Pole, team leader Pat Falvey described the ecstatic atmosphere amongst the adventurers.

"We're so happy to be here, we can't believe it," Mr Falvey said at the time. "We're ecstatic but totally exhausted, shattered, and worn away."

Dr O'Leary's incredible portfolio of achievements led to a railway path in County Cork being named as the Dr Clare O'Leary Walk, and in 2018 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the National University of Ireland, Galway alongside other groundbreaking Irish sports and arts personalities.

Speaking before conferrment, President of NUIG Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said:

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“NUI Galway is fortunate to be associated with many outstanding honorary graduates throughout its history and those being honoured at these conferring ceremonies form a particularly distinguished group.

"Each one has made an outstanding and distinctive contribution in their field. In honouring these exceptional individuals, we signal what we value in areas that matter to us and to our society – the role of sport and volunteering in rural communities, creativity and music, path-breaking women in sport."

Dr O'Leary now runs The Ice Project with partner Mike O'Shea , a campaign which aims to walk across all the major ice caps in the world.

The record-breaking adventurer describes herself on her Twitter page as someone who "Likes long, cold adventures", which just about sums it up.