Members of Mayo Mountain Rescue battled through some of the worst conditions their team have ever experienced on Croagh Patrick on Wednesday afternoon to rescue a man who was seriously injured in a fall near the peak of the popular visitor attraction.
Robert Hunt of the Mayo Mountain Rescue team described conditions on the mountain as “extremely dangerous” as they fought through gusts and severely reduced visibility to reach the injured man.
The team had to stretcher the man down the mountain because low cloud cover prevented a helicopter evacuation.
The man in his 20s suffered a fractured skull and a broken clavicle in the frightening experience shortly after lunchtime. However he is now described as doing well.
He was visiting Westport with his girlfriend and her family when they set out to trek to the well worn pilgrim path to the small mountain top church, which attracts in excess of 40,000 people annually.
The visitors had no way of knowing the dangerous situtaion they were getting into.
Mr Hunt said that while conditions in the car park in Murrisk at the foot of Croagh Patrick seemed okay, the situation after the ‘shoulder’ of the mountain - a flat stretch just before the pyramidal top section - was dramatically different.
“For the average person looking up from the car park, it looked fine,” he said. “However you wouldn’t believe the conditions up there. Once we got to the shoulder, we realised it was now very dangerous, even for the rescue crew.”
Some members of the team who have been scaling Croagh Patrick for more than a decade said it was the worst they had ever experienced on its slopes.
Mayo Mountain Rescue have recorded one of their busiest years ever on the Reek.
Last week alone, the team mounted six rescue operations there. These involved three helicopter evacuations, two walk offs, and one stretcher operation. Each operation takes a team of volunteers between four and four-and-a-half hours to complete.
Mr Hunt said a dedicated, full-time, rescue team for the moutain is probably justified but unlikely to be put in place, due to funding constraints.
Mayo Mountain Rescue is a 100 per cent voluntary organisation. Although they receive some limited Government funding, the vast majority of their costs are fundraised.