Scaling peaks against Parkinson’s: Ian O’Brien’s inspiring journey through exercise

Grayson Ritts|Update: 26.06.2023 11:46


28 of Europe’s highest peaks, 28 countries in 28 days. Irishman Ian O’Brien takes on an inspirational task after being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease

Ian O’Brien recently joined the Sam Steen Show on Today Radio for an interview to raise awareness about early onset Parkinson’s Disease.

O’Brien, 43, was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease five years ago, at age 38. “Pre-diagnosis was the most difficult time, not knowing what was wrong with me” said O’Brien. He was having slight motor symptoms, but what stood out most was the depression and anxiety he was experiencing.

After his diagnosis, O’Brien decided not to let it control him. He found that exercise had many benefits in managing the symptoms and helped to slow the progression of the neurological condition. He embraced hiking as his choice of exercise and this summer he has upped his game, by making the Eur-Up-Ian challenge. “The best medicine I take is exercise,” says O’Brien.


The route Ian O’Brien will be taking in June

Throughout the month of June, O’Brien will be visiting all 27 EU countries, and the UK, scaling each of their highest peaks, all done in 28 days. His aims for this journey are:

  • To raise positive awareness of early onset Parkinson’s Disease in Ireland and Europe
  • Promote and raise funds for EOPD and the services available
  • Connect with others in the Young Onset PD network across Europe
  • Promote the benefits of exercise for PD
  • Have a big adventure with his friends

“Unfortunately, it is the fastest growing neurological condition and my story may become an all too familiar one” said  O’Brien. There are currently over 18,000 people in Ireland that have Parkinson’s Disease and more than 1.2 million in Europe.

Ian O’Brien’s journey began with a climb of Mont Blanc and will finish in his native country of Ireland, at the top of Carrauntoohil. The final peak is significant, not just because it’s the highest point of his home country, but it’s also where his hiking journey began. “A friend brought me down there not long after I was diagnosed. He made me climb it” said O’Brien. “The passion kicked off from there”.


On the 30th of June, O’Brien will do three countries; The Netherlands, Belgium and of course Luxembourg. The highest point in the Grand Duchy being Kneiff at 560 meters.

While Ian O’Brien is financially supporting himself throughout the event, he greatly welcomes any and all support and sponsorship where possible. All donations will go to the charity Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease Ireland.

To learn more about his incredible journey, you can visit the Eur-Up-Ian website or follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagramYoutubeLinkedIn and TikTok.