Matt Loughrey surveys the summit of Croagh Patrick before ascending it for the 365th consecutive days. ?Pic: Conor McKeown
Inspirational Loughrey celebrates amazing 365 feat
Last Saturday Trevor Quinn accompanied Matt Loughrey on his 365th successive climb of Croagh Patrick to raise funds for The St Vincent De Paul Society
MATT Loughrey was described as a man ‘full of humility’ and ‘generous spirit’ as he ignited an array of ruby red smoke canisters, which bellowed majestically in the swirling wind on the summit of Croagh Patrick on Saturday afternoon.
Matt marked the completion of what he described as an ‘incredible’ year in which he raised more than €30,000 for The St Vincent de Paul Society in truly remarkable circumstances - climbing the Reek once a day, every day, for one full year.
Approximately 500 family, friends and supporters climbed the reek with the popular unassuming 32-year-old, and he said he was incredibly thankful to family, friends and the many volunteers who climbed and donated money to the charity over the twelve months.
A Mass was said at the summit by Fr John Kenny, PP, Partry, Claremorris who climbed occasionally with Matt, and the exuberance and ‘feel good factor’ which emanated from the occasion was very memorable and at times very emotional.
Climbers congregated in Campbell’s Bar after the descent and as hot dogs sizzled and cool refreshments were being consumed a number of presentations were made to the former Croagh Patrick guide to mark a momentous day.
Matt said the physical exertions of the last twelve months had been exhausting but he is still motivated to continue his fundraising initiative for at least another two years.
“I’m relieved to be rid of the physicality side of the challenge. It has had a tremendous effect on my body.
“Mentally I’m still very very fit and I’m more than able for it but there’s no doubt the physical aspect does catch up with you. I’ll be sad to see the social side go and that’s the area I’ll miss the most. All the craic and the merriment that goes with that has been incredible. The social side has been tremendous and I’ve met so many great people so it’ll be a bit of a loss in some ways.
Matt confirmed to The Mayo News that he will begin a new 365 challenge after he has had a few weeks off. The new challenge will involve kayaking to each of the islands in Clew Bay and Matt said he will announce the name of his chosen charity in the coming days.
“It’s one of the most beautiful Bays in Europe and it’s on our doorstep so it’ll be a great place to continue the 365. If I can raise some more money for charity and create some awareness and promote the area then that’ll be fantastic.”
The father of two is adamant that the benefits of this initiative far outweigh any negatives but he said he does realise there are risks involved. Last winter he scaled Croagh Patrick in treacherous snow and ice and he says this new challenge will also pose its own exertions.
“I think a lot of people are concerned for my safety and so am I. If I wasn’t there’d be something wrong,” he stated. “I’m confident in this structure and this idea and the positivity has been reciprocated by everybody who has been involved. People say I’m doing a positive thing and the Facebook page is getting 70,000 hits a day. It seems daft to close it down. I think this format should be kept going for as long as I am physically able.”
Matt Loughrey reached the summit amongst his family, close friends, climbers, supporters and followers of 365, all holding a piece of paper with one of the days on it.
Matt said the local community in Murrisk and the surrounding areas have been fully behind him and this had fully invigorated him to keep his enterprising fundraising initiative going “Whether it was a hoot of a horn, the flashing of headlights or the wink of an eye, I knew people were watching me and were rooting for me and that always give me a great incentive to carry on. I didn’t feel like I was doing it alone.”
Matt said the worst day was his fifth or sixth day day when the painful realisation hit home that his body would have to acclimatise to the daily 2510ft ascent. He said: “Even though the weather was fine it really began hitting my body by the fifth or sixth day. I suppose I began to realise what I was letting myself in for.”
Matt, who is a talented photographer, recently opened a Croagh Patrick 365 photographic exhibition, at the Clew Bay Hotel Art Gallery, which documents his climbs of Croagh Patrick since June 5 last year.
Matt said his passion for photography had enriched him on Croagh Patrick during the past year. He said the array of mesmerising sights he has witnessed and captured has helped to keep him motivated on a daily basis.
“Photography alleviates any monotony associated with the challenge. It’s nice to carry on with your pastimes and a picture really does tell a thousand words. Climbing colleague Dermot Henry said: “People have seen different sides to the mountain that nobody knew existed thanks to the some of the photographs that Matt has taken, and he has shown it’s not just about one route up and one route down.”
Matt said he is toying with the idea of spending a few weeks in America but either way he will spend a period recuperating. Some extra food may well be required to “bulk-up” as he puts it. “I’ll have a months rest. I’m definitely going to have to take a short while out and get top fit. I’ve lost a good bit of weight so it’ll be great to get away and have a break and enjoy myself.’
Quotes from the Reek
Greg Barry – Castlebar
“If you think of any normal year, you’re going to be sick, you’re going to be ill, you’re going to be grumpy and you’re going to be hungover. We have a choice to get out of bed or stay in bed. Matt had to get up and climb no matter how the weather was, and no matter how his mood was. He had to just go and do it.”
Adrian Kenny – StrandHill
“I left Sligo at a quarter to six in the morning one day in January and I met Matt at Croagh Patrick at 9am. It had been minus four the previous night. We went up in the snow and ice which was an experience for me as it was the first time I had climbed the Reek.”
Dermot Henry – Fahy
“I’ve met people from all corners of the world with Matt which I think is one of the great aspects of this. We’ve had some great conversations about politics, and the way other country’s do things and it’s always been very interesting. We’ve asked tourists what they think of Ireland as well and we all do our bit to promote the Westport area.
Liz Roche – St Vincent de Paul society Dublin
“It’s just awesome for the local region and for St Vincent de Paul Society. Traditionally we’re kind of known as an older persons organisation. It has really boosted interest in our work. There’s about 20 local members here today. They are so motivated by it and we’re all so proud of Matt and the society’s so proud of what he has achieved.