The road is hilly and crowded with walkers as I try to make my way into their presence. Peggy Stringer, co-founder of the Donegal Camino, walks beside Jennifer Doherty, who cups the elbow of her guide.

It was day two of the charity walk that traversed Donegal over seven days in September 2022. The sun was beating down on us as we took in the breathtaking coastal beauty of the Rosguill Peninsula. Approaching a small beach – our lunchtime stop – I caught up with the two walkers chatting nonchalantly as Mickey Joe Harte started to sing from closer to the water.

“There’s a wee stone there, put your hand down and feel that one,” Peggy advised her companion.

Although Peggy may have been conscious of Jennifer’s footing, Jennifer was conscious of Peggy listening to her story once again. It was unsurprising that Peggy has heard it more than once even on the short distance of that day’s walk. It is quite awe-inspiring.

Because in 2022, Jennifer – who has been blind since she was a baby – was one of a party of 10 to hike to Everest base camp, which is 5,364 metres above sea level.

Josephine Doherty with her daughter Jennifer Doherty from Donegal. \ Clive Wasson.

Jennifer, however, took this height and distance in her stride, if you will excuse the pun.

From Buncrana in Inishowen, Jennifer has been blind since she was eight or nine months old.

“I don’t know any different really,” she says. “I ended up on this walk today [Donegal Camino] because I know Denis Sheridan because I went to base camp with him and Jason Black in April 2022.”

Meeting jason

Let’s take a step back in the story for a moment.

For many years, Donegal man Denis Sheridan always had an interest in mountaineering.

“I sat at home on winter nights in front of the fire watching mountaineers – especially Jason Black, because I know him – climbing K2 and Everest,” he tells Irish Country Living, when we get a chance to talk to him on the Donegal Camino.

Three years ago, Denis met Jason following his return from one such expedition and asked straight out if he would be interested in taking a party to Everest base camp. He may have had to wait a year for a response, but it was positive.

In 2022, Denis, having sown the seed, joined a group that walked the Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary route through the Sherpa villages of Nepal to reach what he had previously only seen on TV.

Denis believes that he was the first to sign up, with Jennifer coming in second.

So how did Jennifer end up joining?

Jennifer Doherty from Donegal has been blind since she was a baby, but this proved no obstacle to reaching Everest base camp. \ Clive Wasson.

She says she never even thought of doing a climb of such magnitude but when Jason Black met with her the week before Christmas 2021, she agreed.

“I just knew he was a mountaineer and he went to Kilimanjaro and Everest but I didn’t know anything about him. I’m not sporty so it wasn’t something I really knew much about but I was like, ‘I’ll meet him’. So he came down to the house four days before Christmas.”

At this meeting, Jason told Jennifer and her family all about himself, what he does and his interest in sport and mental health. It was then he asked if she was interested in travelling with the group.

There was no suggestion from Jason that Jennifer’s blindness would cause any issues.

“He wasn’t saying, ‘take your family or your friends’, he didn’t have a problem that I was blind, that was no big deal. I didn’t really know how it was all going to work but I said I would go. We had three Sherpas with us, but he never even told them I was blind. They didn’t know until they saw me. I just took turns walking with different people from the team.

Jennifer Doherty in Nepal.

“Like the ground was never smooth, but some parts were easier. I just walked holding their elbow like this [as she was holding Peggy’s] and they just described what was around them and we just did it.”


The words fall out of my mouth. I have so many questions. This is something people train for months to do and still fail. How did you manage the altitude sickness? Did you train much?

Her response I’d wager is her response to any challenge.

“The whole time I just said, ‘right Jason knows what he is doing and I’m going to go with whatever advice he has’. You can look up the internet and you can look at so many things and just get completely confused. He was like, ‘just get used to walking long distances on uneven ground. So, I just went walking a few days up the Blue Stacks”.

The group did two days training before departing and at that point Jennifer did think “he’s definitely going to kick me out and tell me I’m not fit enough”.

Jennifer Doherty on the trek to Everest Base Camp.

But between an exercise bike purchased during lockdown and continuous walking with her guide dogs, Jennifer had built up a steady basic level of fitness.

“I didn’t know if I was fit enough, but I just had to trust that I was,” she says.

On the altitude, she credits again Jason’s trip planning.

“We went lower down so we went a very non-commercial route, which meant we had more days there to acclimatise to the altitude. We gradually went into altitude over four days, we took our time and drank loads of water and ate well,” she explains.

“My sister-in-law is Nepalese so I love Nepalese food, so I was in heaven. You just had to be sensible about it, not go too fast and not panic. That was the big thing. It was more of a mental challenge [than physical].”

For Jennifer, walking is a great way to meet people and hear their stories.

“For me, obviously, I have to walk with somebody because I wouldn’t take my guide dog on these kind of walks, so you are walking with all different people. You are spending a lot of time with the person and you get to chat to them, whereas if I could see I wouldn’t because I’d be walking on my own.”

What’s next

Irish Country Living caught up with Jennifer again recently, just home from a holiday to Nepal to see her brother and his family. She is embarking on another challenge with Jason, his “Ireland seven summit challenge”, which commenced in the Wicklow mountains last weekend.

Jennifer is the chair of the Donegal branch of Irish Guide Dogs For The Blind. Her own dog Sybil recently retired and Jennifer is awaiting a pup to start the process over again. She mentioned Letterkenny’s John Wilkie, who Irish Country Living also had the pleasure of meeting on that sunny day last September.

Jennifer Doherty, Denis Sheridan and Jason Black were part of a group of 10 to hike to Everest base camp

John, who turns 60 this year, is travelling to Kilimanjaro to raise money for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. An incredible feat considering that just a few years ago, John was in intensive care, paralysed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. But that is a story for another day. People truly are incredible, resilient and prove that anything is possible.

For more information on the seven summit challenge, visit or to donate to the Irish Guide Dogs, visit

Valuable lessons

Apart from the achievement of reaching Base Camp, both Denis and Jennifer say that the experience of living among the Sherpa people and eating in their tea houses saw them learn some valuable lessons.

Denis remembers the food in particular.

“The diet was basically fried rice, boiled rice, boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, dhal and Sherpa stew,” he explains.

“The first tea house we landed at, we ordered and somebody went out to the backyard and dug up the spuds, cut the spuds and made chips. We were two hours waiting for dinner. Every day after that one of the Sherpas went ahead with the order to bring the wait to a half hour. But the friendliness of the people, the simple lives they lead and how they survive, is incredible.”

The day job

Jennifer has an audio and transcription company. She takes audio recordings of interviews for people doing research and types them up. She curiously asks about any transcription software that I use and laughs when I explain that it’s not very good, particularly with Donegal accents.

Is she worried about being replaced by technology? Not really. She explains that a lot of the universities still prefer humans even though it’s faster to use the software.

“It’s great because I’m learning loads of different things without having to study. I am listening to people talk about their research and their stories,” she adds.

Now though with the benefit of experience, she does ask more questions before getting a recording.

“There’s some stuff I know is going to be absolute torture so I just don’t take it on. I’ve spent hours Googling terms and sometimes it’s just a disaster if people send crap recordings. But most researchers know what they’re doing.”

Jennifer charges by the hour and length of the recording for all my journalistic writer friends who might want to use such a service.

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