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People warned to not climb Croagh Patrick as rescue attempts will take longer due to Covid risk

Reek Sunday has officially been cancelled but some people are still expected to attend.

MMR rescuing a person from Croagh Patrick on Tuesday.
MMR rescuing a person from Croagh Patrick on Tuesday.
Image: Clement Quinn/MMR

MEMBERS OF THE public have been advised to not climb Croagh Patrick this weekend on what would have been Reek Sunday.

Up to 25,000 pilgrims typically climb the Mayo mountain on the last Sunday of July. However, in May organisers cancelled this year’s event due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some people are expected to still climb the mountain but have been warned that the normal infrastructure and rescue teams will not be in place.

Last year, more than 20 people had to be treated for various injuries on Reek Sunday, and rescues on the mountain are common.

Mayo Mountain Rescue (MMR), a group that is part of the Reek Sunday Organising Forum, regularly has to rescue people from Croagh Patrick.

The group will be on call on Sunday, but won’t be based at the mountain as the official event has been cancelled. Typically, about 125 mountain rescue personnel from Ireland and the UK would be on site on Reek Sunday.

Cameron Clotworthy, a member of MMR, explained that rescue operations are more complicated and take longer than normal in current times.

“We’re restricted in how we can operate so we can’t be up on the mountain necessarily like we normally are there, ready to go. So we will only be operating on 999/112 to be tasked by An Garda Síochána.”

Clotworthy added that team members “can’t mix for long periods and wait around” like they could in previous years.

He said the team has been “busy” this week and has already been involved in two rescues on Croagh Patrick.

No social distancing

Clotworthy said people considering climbing the mountain on Sunday, or in general, should be mindful of the fact rescue attempts will take longer than normal. Team members have to disinfect their personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment in between call-outs.

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Ideally, he added, 12 people are involved in a rescue mission.

“It’s very difficult, it adds a lot of time to preparation to go up on the hill. And when we come down off the hill, cleaning down the equipment and our own personal protective gear, we’d have to change again to go back up again.”

He said members wear masks and also put a mask on the casualty during a rescue but it’s not an ideal situation as people can’t socially distance, noting “physically you’re right beside them”.

“You’re holding the stretcher and bringing them down the hill, so there’s no social distancing. There’s an added risk there that wasn’t there last year.”

Clotworthy added that if a casualty later tests positive for Covid-19 “that has the potential to put a lot of our team members out of action”.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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