Concern over casualty rate among Croagh Patrick climbers

Group suggests ‘path development and repair solutions’ as mountain visitor levels soar

 People climbing Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo: “Visitor management” and the impact on the mountain is key to its future sustainability and conservation works.  Photograph: Eric Luke

People climbing Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo: “Visitor management” and the impact on the mountain is key to its future sustainability and conservation works. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Mayo Mountain Rescue (MMR) have had its busiest first six months of a year since its foundation 25 years ago due to an increase in the number of casualties on Croagh Patrick.

A spokeswoman for MMR confirmed injuries sustained by 27 victims of falls since January were mainly on the treacherous cone of the mountain and have been “more serious head and lower limb injuries”.

“There is a lack of understanding by many users of the mountain of the level of difficulty it poses,” she stated. “With the numbers increasing all the time – there were over 122,000 last year – climbers need to make safety a priority. Be mindful of weather conditions, fitness levels of you and your party, knowledge of terrain, ability to navigate, route planning and gear.”

It is four years since a Mountaineering Ireland report concluded that the 764m mountain, which is in commonage and owned by 49 farmers, needed an intervention of €1.5 million.

Unique challenges

As several organisations – church, State and community – prepare for the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on July 30th, a consultant, appointed by the Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group (a local group which includes local authority, church, tourism, community and commonage farmer representatives), has advised several points in an interim report. These include that the cone and summit “pose a number of quite unique challenges which is making it difficult to specify a solution that will fit into the landscape and which will succeed in keeping visitors on the path”.

Chris York advised that “there are feasible path development and repair solutions for the lower levels of the mountain to the shoulder using materials from the site together with some slope stabilisation interventions.

“The objective of any works should be to help restore the mountain to a more natural state that can be managed in the long term rather than to encourage more visitors, improve safety or make it easier to climb.”

Mr York said “visitor management” and their impact on the mountain is key to its future sustainability and any conservation works.

Two years ago, Fr Tony King called for the mountain to be closed to extreme sports athletes who, he said, were using its pathway for “a sky track”.