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Dublin: 15°C Tuesday 19 October 2021

Ireland's holiest mountain is crumbling - but that won't stop the barefoot pilgrims

20,000 people are expected on Croagh Patrick, with some likely to start their ascent in the early hours.

Pilgrimage to Summit of Croagh Patrick Pilgrim Owen Maughan takes a break during the annual climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick in 2005. Source: PA WIRE

THE DEGRADED STATE of pathways on Croagh Patrick is being highlighted, ahead of the traditional ‘Reek Sunday’ climb – set to get under way in the next few hours.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are expected to climb what’s regarded as the country’s holiest mountain this weekend.

The pilgrimage is traditionally held on the last Sunday of each July.

Mayo Mountain Rescue spokesperson Ruth Cunniffe told TheJournal.ie there were signs of significant erosion on the mountain – and recommended anyone attempting the climb wear appropriate footwear.

Meanwhile, Mayo County Council is due to discuss future plans for the mountain at a meeting next Monday night, the Mayo News is reporting.

Scottish mountaineering expert Bob Aitken described the route up Croagh Patrick as “the worst-damaged pathway in the UK and Ireland” at a seminar in Murrisk in 2013.

While a study carried out by Mountaineering Ireland found that:

The path is in a significantly degraded state and the visual impact of the erosion is highly visible both from near and distant views.

Prince Rainer III and Princess Grace Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Princess Grace take tea on the slopes of Croagh Patrick in 1961. Source: Associated Press

Reek Sunday

Around 13 volunteer mountain rescue teams from all over the country are in the area this evening, preparing for tomorrow’s operation.

The Civil Defence, the Order of Malta, gardaí and other agencies will also be involved in the weekend response.

Cunniffe said mountain rescue members would be in place from around 2am – as some people still carry out the climb overnight. The busiest time is generally between 6am and midday, she said.

“We’re generally off the mountain by 8.30 in the evening. Except last year, we were all off and showered and another call came in at 9 o’clock.”

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Two people – a man and a woman – were airlifted from the mountain by the Air Corps last year. A number of other people were treated for less serious injuries. Broken bones and scrapes aren’t uncommon on the climb, Cunniffe said.

The Mayo Mountain Rescue Team have issued the following advice ahead of the climb (more on their website).

  • Everyone should bring extra clothing and layers, including waterproof gear. It could be up to 7 or 8 degrees cooler on the summit, than in the car park in Murrisk, that coupled with the wind chill (if present) could make it quite cool, especially after climbing for 2 hours. 
  • Everyone should have appropriate footwear, ideally hiking boots, giving proper ankle support, and grip on the slippery paths of the mountain. We would not advise anyone to climb in your bare feet, however if you choose to do so it would be smart to bring boots with you in case you need them. 
  • Everyone should have adequate food and water for a 3 to 4 hour hike. To be self-sufficient, and not relying on others for supplies. Chocolate, bananas, nuts and raisins are good energy providers. A warm and cool drink is also advisable. 
  • Everyone climbing generally should have a means of contacting help. A fully charged mobile phone, and possibly a second or third if your climbing in a group. 

may Source: Mayo Mountain Rescue

Summit masses

Mass will be said at the summit at 8am and every half hour, until the final service at 2pm.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam will start his climb of the mountain at 7am, and will say mass at the summit at 10.30am.

Read VIDEO: Here’s how the Air Corps rescued a climber from Croagh Patrick

Read Gardaí warn pilgrims to be careful ahead of Croagh Patrick trek

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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