Barefoot pilgrims brave the rocks for Reek Sunday

Thousands make it to the top for 8am mass with Archbishop Neary

Pilgrims Shauna (9) and her dad Ray Murphy, Devlin, Louisburgh, Co.Mayo take a break as they Make their way up Croagh Patrick at dawn for the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Pilgrims Shauna (9) and her dad Ray Murphy, Devlin, Louisburgh, Co.Mayo take a break as they Make their way up Croagh Patrick at dawn for the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Sun, Jul 27, 2014, 20:13

Up to 30,000 pilgrims made the journey to the summit of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo today to celebrate Reek Sunday.

The first mass of the day commences at the summit at 8am, by which time there’s barely space to park a car in Murrisk, the village at the bottom of the mountain, though the slopes are crowded.

Climbing down from the summit is the trickiest part of the day, however, with the steep run of scree at the top of the mountain making for particularly treacherous conditions underfoot.

Mayo Mountain Rescue reported some 17 casualties, four of whom had to be stretchered from the mountain, while two more required evacuation by helicopter.

Most of the injuries were broken bones and strains, while one person suffered a head injury and another man was airlifted to Galway with chest pains.

Old tradition

The last Sunday in July has been a day of Christian pilgrimage to the mountain for more than 1,000 years and this year’s event drew people from all over the world to southwest Mayo.

“It makes it easier if there aren’t too many people,” said Clare native Seamus Hynes.

Hynes, who said that you can never be too early to start the climb, arrived in Murrisk for his fourth climb of the Reek at 4.30am on Sunday, having driven straight from playing a gig in Killaloe on Saturday night.

“When I got here, it was like a procession of lanterns all the way up with these headlamps,” he said. “It was extraordinary to see it.”

Another man who arrived early was Michael Murphy, who drove up from Monivea, Co Galway, with his daughter Alison and began to climb at about 7am. “This is my 18th year so I’m notching them up,” he said, noting also that it was the first time he’d not been rained on.

“I’m doing it so long now, if I didn’t do it, I’d feel like I was missing something. It’s a nice way to reflect on the past year and give a little bit of thanks as well. A little bit of gratitude. There’s a lot of people out there who can’t do it and I think we have to appreciate that too.”

Like Murphy, many others spoke of returning year after year for the climb.

“I’ve done it for the last 15 or 20 years,” said Padraic Flood of Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, while taping the sole of his boot back on. It had fallen apart as he climbed back down from the summit.