Croagh Patrick climbers urged not to go barefoot on pilgrimage

Thu, Jul 23, 2009, 01:00

WHATEVER ABOUT its benefits for the soul, climbing Croagh Patrick barefoot this weekend could lead to calluses of the sole.

That is according to Mayo Mountain Rescue Team (MMRT), which has advised, for the first time, that people should wear footwear when climbing the 2,510ft (764m) mountain for the traditional “Reek Sunday” pilgrimage.

Even the youngest and fittest of climbers will run the risk of a painful injury lasting for days if they go without footwear, the MMRT points out in a comprehensive safety document.

For those determined to shed their shoes, the rescue unit urges that they at least bring some form of footwear with them which they can put on if the effort becomes too painful or excessive.

For safety reasons, the unit also urges that each pilgrim carry a stick and maintain a very slow and careful pace while ascending and descending the mountain.

Flip-flops, Wellingtons, sandals and stilettos have been given the red card by the rescue unit, which also advised that climbers wear multiple-layer clothing which can be added or removed as required.

On Sunday next, Mayo Mountain Rescue will act as the co-ordinating team for 11 mountain rescue teams from all over the country. From early on Sunday, there will be in excess of 150 mountain rescue personnel on the mountain, backed up by Order of Malta, Civil Defence and Garda Síochána personnel.

Although a Coast Guard helicopter will be on standby to airlift those who may be more seriously injured, Mayo Mountain Rescue has advised intending pilgrims not to take such assistance for granted.

“Do not assume that a rescue team or helicopter is available to carry you off just because you get tired on the mountain,” Dick Harnedy, spokesman for Mayo Mountain Rescue, said yesterday.

“The unfortunate reality is that limited resources can be directed only at the most serious cases.”

Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to climb Croagh Patrick for the national pilgrimage on Sunday – among them the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, who will celebrate 10.30am Mass in the mountaintop oratory.