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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Barefoot pilgrims, 13 masses and 140 rescuers: Busy Reek Sunday climb up Croagh Patrick expected

It’s estimated that between 15,000-25,000 people could take part.

There were 15 callouts to the mountain last year.
There were 15 callouts to the mountain last year.
Image: Mayo Mountain Rescue Team

THE GOOD SUMMER weather is expected to make this weekend’s Reek Sunday climb a bigger event than usual with between 15,000-25,000 pilgrims predicted to take part.

The annual climb of Croagh Patrick is part of the Irish Catholic calendar with the Irish Bishops’ Conference saying that people have been doing it for over 1500 years.

The pilgrimage also means that rescue teams organise the biggest coordinated mountain rescue operation in Ireland each year to keep people safe.

The 764 metre mountain is a difficult climb with some pilgrims choosing to climb in their bare feet in line with tradition.

Rescue teams have been planning for the event for months with the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team (MMRT) and the Order of Malta among those putting preparations in place.

Last year 15 people were assisted from the mountain, with one man suffering a heart attack and another suffering a dislocated shoulder.

Spokesperson for the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps Keelan Moran says that some pilgrims underestimate the difficulty of the climb.

“Extreme caution is urged upon all climbers given the dangers posed by the climb. Climbing conditions towards the peak have continued to deteriorate and as such, we are stressing the importance of climbers being suitably equipped for all weathers, regardless of ground conditions.”

It is imperative that good footwear such as hiking boots be worn, along with suitable clothes and rain gear , as well as sun protection. Although temperatures are expected to be relatively high, we urge climbers to be prepared for sudden downpours or changes in the weather.

The Order of Malta also notes that participation in the climb has fallen in recent years but that the spell of good weather this year is expected to attract a larger number of pilgrims.

The Mayo Mountain Rescue Team says that about 140 mountain rescue personnel from Ireland and the UK will be coming to Mayo to assist with the operation.

This will include personnel from Mountain Rescue Ireland, the Civil Defence, the Irish Air Corps, An Garda Síochana, Mayo County Council and the Irish Coast Guard.

File Photo A retired parish priest has called for badly eroded sacred mountain Croagh Patrick to be declared off limits for many activities until a proper conservation plan is implemented. Fr Tony King wants the 764m mountain to be off-limits to extreme s Some pilgrims decide to do the climb in their bare feet. Source: Photocall Ireland

Church authorities are also involved in the organisation of the pilgrimage and the maintenance of safety on the mountain.

The first mass of the weekend-long event took place yesterday morning at the summit of Croagh Patrick with another mass yesterday evening at the bass of the mountain.

The official beginning of the pilgrimage begins this evening when Archbishop Michael Neary celebrates mass in Saint Mary’s Church in Westport at 6.30pm.

Mass will then be held on the summit of the mountain on the hour from 8am to 2pm tomorrow and three other masses will be held in local churches.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference is also advising pilgrims that confessions will be taken on the summit of Croagh Patrick from 7.30am until 2pm tomorrow.

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Rónán Duffy

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