Just days before an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people are set to scale Ireland's 'holiest mountain' for Reek Sunday, strong calls have been issued to Mayo County Council to do more to protect the ancient pilgrimage site.
Ruairí Ó Conchúir, CEO of Mountaineering Ireland, called on the local authority this week to "urgently seek a solution" to the serious erosion along the traditional pilgrim path on Croagh Patrick, which he says is threatening the sustainability of the mountain as one of Ireland's most visited peaks.
According to Mountaineering Ireland, as many as 100,000 people a year pick their way along the same steep path that has been used by pilgrims for at least 1,500 years to reach Croagh Patrick's pyramidal peak from the base in Murrisk.
"The impact of this increased footfall is clearly visible as a scar on the mountain," Mr Ó Conchúir said. "The main path is actively eroding and widening and is now over 30 metres wide in certain sections of the route."
The cost to repair the eroded path will require an initial €1.5 million investment, according to a 2012 report by mountain expert Elfyn Jones, as well as a a further sustained programme of maintenance and protection.
The report recommended breaking the main pilgrim route into five sections to contain and stabilise the continuing path erosion.
"As Reek Sunday approaches, Mountaineering Ireland calls on Mayo County Council and all other stakeholders to urgently seek a solution to the path erosion on Croagh Patrick," stated Mr Ó Conchúir.
"There is an urgent need for a management plan with a properly funded programme of path repair work to protect the mountain from further degradation.
"Mountaineering Ireland stands ready to provide advice and support to all stakeholders working to protect Croagh Patrick for current and future generations of users."
Meanwhile Ruth Cunniffe, PRO with Mayo Mountain Rescue, who will have a large presence on Croagh Patrick on Sunday, wished all those undertaking the climb a very enjoyable and safe day.
However she also urged all pilgrims to come prepared for the conditions and weather on the mountain.
"People need to remember that while this is a pilgrimage, it is also a mountain. We see all kinds of things from people in flip flops to others in their Sunday best. People need to be suited and booted and prepared for the weather. Appropriate, sturdy, walking boots and rain gear are a must."
Ms Cunniffe said 20 out of Mayo Mountain Rescue's 21 call outs so far this year have come from Croagh Patrick.