Peak readiness — services on alert as 20,000 expected for Reek Sunday

Sunday will see more than 20,000 pilgrims descend on Croagh Patrick for the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on Ireland's Holy Mountain.

Mass will be celebrated on the summit on the hour from 8am with the last Mass taking place at 2pm, confessions will also be heard from 7.30am to 2pm for pilgrims on top of the mountain.

Mayo Mountain Rescue Team which co-ordinates the rescue and emergency response on the mountain for the pilgrimage has reported that it expects over 20,000 pilgrims to climb the mountain over the 24-hour period on Reek Sunday.

Upwards of 120 mountain rescue personnel will be involved and last year they responded to 17 separate incidents over the course of the Reek Sunday period. This is the biggest co-ordinated mountain rescue operation in the country each year and will see all 11 mountain rescue teams from around Ireland descend on the mountain to offer assistance along with all local divisions of the Order of Malta, Mayo County Council, Irish Air Corps, An Garda Síochána, Irish Coast Guard, Civil Defence, Murrisk Development Association, local landowners and volunteers all involved.

Mayo Mountain Rescue have advised all climbers to make safety a priority. They recommend the use of proper walking boots, waterproof clothing, food and water and to be mindful of fitness levels and ability of young children. The weather is very changeable and temperatures can vary by as much as seven degrees between sea level and the summit.

Westport Order of Malta have also urged sensible climbing by those who will attempt to scale the mountain over the weekend and will have 120 Order of Malta members on hand on the mountain from 5am to 6pm to provide first aid assistance. This will be the 75th year that they have been involved in Reek Sunday operations.

Keelan Moran, spokesperson from the Order of Malta, said caution is urged upon all climbers given the challenges posed by the climb.

"While Croagh Patrick is a very manageable climb, it is important that all who take on the challenge do so sensibly.

"We are stressing the importance of climbers being suitably equipped for all weather, regardless of ground conditions. It is imperative that good footwear such as hiking boots be worn, along with warm clothes and rain gear, as well as sun protection. All climbers should also bring a plentiful supply of water and snacks, while extra care must be taken with children on the mountain. Given the recent spell of good weather, it is important to note that while conditions may be fine on the ground, often this is not the case towards the summit," he added.

“Our personnel will be on hand both on the mountain and on the ground in Murrisk throughout the day to assist and advise pilgrims as much as possible. We ask that all climbers take note of and heed this advice. As this is such a large scale and unpredictable event, planning has been under way for months to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone taking part. The safety of our volunteers, climbers and pilgrims is our top priority and could not be protected to such high and professional standards without the co-operation of many organisations," he concluded

The Order of Malta runs an extensive operation, including a medical treatment unit in the local National School which assesses and treats all patients on the day, three fully crewed ambulances, rapid response vehicles, a first aid post and a medical tent on the mountain, first aid and stretcher teams as well as communications and welfare services. Pilgrims are reminded to ask any of the authorities or volunteers for advice before or during the climb.

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