Safety warning issued to 30,000 planning Croagh Patrick climb

Concerns rising over damage to pathways on the 764 metre mountain

Pilgrims are seen climbing Croagh Patrick. Photograph: The Irish Times

Pilgrims are seen climbing Croagh Patrick. Photograph: The Irish Times


Mayo Mountain Rescue has issued a safety warning to the estimated 30,000 pilgrims who are expected to climb Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo today as part of the Reek Sunday climb.

The increasing popularity of the mountain for hill-walkers and sportspeople has lead to safety concerns about sections of the path on the mountain, particularly around the steep conical area beneath the summit which is covered by loose shale.

Those planning to take part in the climb have been advised to wear appropriate footwear and clothing and to bring the necessary equipment. Temperatures at the top of the mountain can be up to 10 degrees colder than at sea level.

Robert Hunt from Mayo Mountain Rescue also warned those intending to attempt the climb barefoot to also bring shoes in case their feet become too sore to continue.

He also said that if people were planning to bring children - and he noted that every year children as young as five were brought on the climb - they had to be appropriately attired.

“Almost every year on Reek Sunday at least one child is unfortunately treated for exhaustion or borderline hypothermia and many more for blisters, sprained ankles, bruises, fatigue and cuts sustained from falls.”

He also said those attempting the climb had a duty of care to the themselves and to other climbers.

Mr Hunt said those who become tired on the mountain “should not assume that a rescue team or a helicopter is available to carry you off”. These resources would be taken up with more serious rescues, he added.

Mr Hunt said the number of accidents and injuries had increased this summer and he noted it had been an extremely busy summer on the 764m-high mountain.

Last Saturday an Irish Coast Guard Rescue helicopter had to airlift three casualties from the mountain in separate rescues after suffering leg and head injuries.

A group of stakeholders - which includes Mayo County Council, Fáilte Ireland, church representatives and local residents - was established in recent years to assess and plan the future of the mountain. However, according to Mr Hunt, the group has not met recently.

Scottish mountaineering expert Bob Aitken dubbed Croagh Patrick “the worst-damaged pathway in the UK and Ireland” at a seminar in Murrisk late last year.

Last December, a report, commissioned by Mountaineering Ireland, was the central reference point for the seminar. Carried out by Elfyn Jones of the British Mountaineering Council, it said the mountain, increasingly used by extreme-sports enthusiasts, needed a “large-scale intervention” estimated to cost €1 million.