Dismal forecast heightens alert for Croagh Patrick pilgrims

Sat, Jul 25, 2009, 01:00

THE WEATHER forecast for those hoping to climb Croagh Patrick tomorrow morning in the annual “Reek Sunday” pilgrimage could hardly be more dismal.

Blustery winds, “especially on higher ground”, intermittent low cloud and heavy showers are all part of the promised package for Ireland’s “holy mountain” throughout the day, according to a Met Office spokesman.

There will be “wind all day”, while other conditions are expected to be “variable”, he said.

The emphasis on safety is expected to be even more acute than usual on the mountain due to the expected conditions.

Earlier this week, the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team (MMRT) advised, for the first time, that people should wear footwear when climbing the 2,510ft (765m) mountain tomorrow.

Flip-flops, Wellingtons, sandals and stilettos were ruled out by the rescue unit, which advised that climbers should wear multiple-layer clothing that can be added to or removed as required.

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

Although a Coast Guard helicopter will be on standby to airlift anybody who may be seriously injured, it may be hampered by winds.

Dick Harnedy, spokesman for Mayo Mountain Rescue, reminded people during the week that “the unfortunate reality is that limited resources can be directed only at the most serious cases”.

The Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev Michael Neary, will start the pilgrimage climb at 7am tomorrow from the car park in Murrisk, and will celebrate Mass on the summit at 10.30am. Mass is be celebrated there from 8am and at every half-hour until the last Mass at 2pm.

The 10am Mass will be celebrated in Irish. Pilgrims can avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the summit between 7.30am and 2.30pm.

The pilgrimage has been taking place on the last Sunday of July for over 1,500 years. Usually between 20,000 and 30,000 people take part. Over 100,000 people climb Croagh Patrick annually.