Upwards of 30,000 pilgrims are expected to flock to Croagh Patrick on Sunday for the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on the holy mountain. While the thousands of pilgrims make their way up the mountain, the Mayo Mountain Rescue team will be co-ordinating a massive effort on the ground to ensure that any climbers who get into difficulty on the mountain will be quickly taken off the slope.
From the southern side of the mountain, Mayo Mountain Rescue will be co-ordinating 120 mountain rescue personal from 10 mountain rescue teams from around the country. In addition to the mountain rescue teams there will be upwards of 150 Order of Malta medics strategically placed around the mountain on the day to give medical assistance to any pilgrims who get into difficulty.
The Mayo Mountain Rescue team on behalf of all the mountain rescue and Order of Malta medical personnel have appealed to all intending pilgrims to plan ahead and be prepared to stay safe when undertaking the pilgrimage.
The Mountain Rescue team have appealed to pilgrims who are undertaking the climb to consider a number of things before they set off. Mayo Mountain Rescue PRO, Robert Hunt, this week said: “The most popular pilgrim path runs from sea level at Murrisk to the summit, a distance of approximately 7kms round trip. Any attempt to climb the mountain is not something to be taken lightly and as a bare minimum, pilgrims should be in reasonably good health and confidently capable of walking this distance.”
While a number of people will undertake the climb in bare feet he advised that “footwear which are designed for moderate hill walking activities and which provide good ankle support are probably the best choice of footwear, failing that a good pair of runners with decent grip should get you through safely. Flip-flops, Wellingtons, sandals and stilettos are not recommended.”
While the temperature has been very warm in recent weeks, Mr Hunt advised that pilgrims be prepared for all eventualities, saying: “The temperature at the summit of Croagh Patrick can vary as much as five to 10 degrees cooler than at Murrisk. In addition, even in summer, conditions can change rapidly from warm sunshine to chilling rain or blanket mist and cloud cover. The key to proper dressing is to ensure multiple layers which can be added or removed as required. It is suggested that you carry a waterproof, or as a bare minimum, a windproof outer layer which can be put on or taken off where needed. Some form of head gear is also recommended, either to prevent the considerable heat loss that can occur from the head or to give shade from the sun.”
He concluded by saying: “The most significant thing that Mayo Mountain Rescue Team would say to those planning the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is that they have a duty of care and a responsibility to themselves to ensure their own safety. Do not assume that a rescue team or a helicopter is available to carry you off just because you get tired on the mountain. While the presence of mountain rescue teams on Croagh Patrick every year always aspires towards prevention and patrolling rather than rescue, the unfortunate reality is that inevitably the limited resources are taken up with some very serious rescues and evacuations off the mountain. Cases need to be prioritised and because of the sheer numbers on the mountain, people with less serious injuries may find themselves waiting some time for assistance from mountain rescue teams who are, first and foremost, a group of volunteers who give of their time throughout the year and spend the last Sunday of July on the side of Croagh Patrick because of their love of mountains.”