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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
NI woman reaches Everest summit
Hannah Shields
Hannah Shields has scaled the world's highest peak
A County Londonderry dentist has become the first Northern Ireland woman to conquer Mount Everest - four years after abandoning a previous attempt.

Hannah Shields, 41, was part of a team which made it to the top of the world's highest peak on Friday morning.

In May 2003, she narrowly failed to reach the summit due to exhaustion and atrocious weather conditions.

Hannah's sister, Maria, said she was looking well after the ascent but pleased to be back at base camp.

"She said that her primary thought was to get up to the summit," Maria told the BBC.

"She didn't spend very long at the top, she wanted to touch the flags and get back down. The difficult part is actually coming back down off the moutain."

Friend and fellow runner Dermot Connolly said the Kilrea woman was exhausted but ecstatic.

"It was a tremendous achievement. She thought long and hard about going back.

"She was so near yet so far last time, it was a big decision to go back but the determination was there."

Hannah Shields on Everest
Four years ago, Hannah Shields got 300 ft from the summit

Exactly four years ago Ms Shields was forced to abandon her attempt less than 300 ft from the summit.

She had to return to camp suffering from exhaustion and the onset of frostbite. However, she vowed to try again at some point.

She set off for her latest expedition in April as part of the "Seven Summits" team of international climbers.

Her attempt to scale the world's most unforgiving peak was expected to take about two months - but she managed the challenge in about six weeks.

She scaled Everest by the arduous north face shortly before midnight on Friday and has returned safely back down the most dangerous part of the mountain.

The 23-strong expedition team, led by Russian Alex Abramov and including John Delaney from County Laois, comprised of 17 climbers, four guides and a doctor.

'Well prepared'

Her victory has delighted her coach at City of Derry Athletics Club, Noel McMonagle.

"We are over the moon," he said.

"We couldn't be more happy for Hannah because Hannah is one of these people that takes these challenges on and she follows everything through.

"Every bit of preparation went into Everest and to get so close the last time... And then come back now this time it shows, the resilience that Hannah has."

Mount Everest
Many have tried and failed to conquer Everest
Ms Shields is no stranger to challenges and has been a member of the local Sparta athletics club for about seven years.

She represented Northern Ireland in international cross-country running as well as having track and cross-country championships to her credit.

In May 2003, Terence "Banjo" Bannon, 35, from Newry, County Down, reached the top of the Everest.

It was the first time a team from Northern Ireland had reached the summit.

Dawson Stelfox from Lisburn became the first man from the province to make it to the top in 1993.

Keiron Tourish visits Hannah's family

First Irish woman reaches Everest
18 May 04 |  Northern Ireland
NI Everest team reach summit
31 May 03 |  Northern Ireland
Climber abandons Everest attempt
22 May 03 |  Northern Ireland
Setback for NI Everest bid
09 May 03 |  Northern Ireland
NI climbers aim for summit
23 Apr 03 |  Northern Ireland

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