The annual influx of thousands of pilgrims to Mayo for Reek Sunday takes place this weekend - as the annual pilgrimage of Ireland's holy mountain (Croagh Patrick ) takes place. Upwards of 25,000 are expected to climb the mountain, many of them travelling from locations all over the country.
For the pilgrims there will be Mass held hourly on the summit of Croagh Patrick from 8am to 2pm. While the traditional route up the mountain from Murrisk will be the most popular route, there will also be a traditional Tóchar Phádraig pilgrimage from Ballintubber Abbey to Murrisk, before climbing the mountain; this pilgrimage will depart from the Abbey at 8.30am.
Mayo Mountain Rescue, which is a voluntary organisation, will be co-ordinating the biggest mountain rescue operation in Ireland this year on the day. An average 120 mountain rescue personnel from mountain rescue teams across Ireland and the UK come to assist in the operation. Though it is the busiest weekend operationally for the Mayo Mountain Rescue team, separately there has been an increase of 60 per cent in callouts in Mayo for the first half of 2017, with 27 callouts by early July for the voluntary group.
Mayo Mountain Rescue advises that all climbers 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.
In preparation for this Sunday's event a Mayo Mountain Rescue sub-committee has been working closely with a large body of local and national agencies to ensure the smooth running of the rescue services on the day. Those involved in this effort include; Order of Malta (all local divisions ), Mountain Rescue Ireland (all 12 teams ), Mayo County Council, Irish Air Corp, An Garda Siochana, Coast Guard Helicopter service, Civil Defence, Westport Church Authorities, Murrisk Development Association, and local landowners.
The Order of Malta on the day will have a medical treatment unit in the local national school which will assess and treat all patients, four fully crewed ambulances, two first aid posts and a medical tent on the mountain, along with climbing first aid and stretcher teams as well as communication and welfare services.
If you wish to donate to the efforts of Mayo Mountain Rescue, you can do so by making a donation on www.mayomountainrescue.ie