AT FIRST LIGHT Pilgrims make their way up the rugged slopes of Croagh Patrick at sunrise on Reek Sunday 2018. Climbers are asked to again exercise caution for this year’s climb. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Order of Malta asks Reek Sunday pilgrims to take all necessary precautions
Pilgrims taking part in the annual Reek Sunday climb of Croagh Patrick have been urged to take ‘the necessary precautions’ to prevent accidents. Up to 25,000 people are expected to climb the holy mountain this Sunday, which is also known as Garland Sunday, an annual day of pilgrimage.
Westport Order of Malta along with Mayo Mountain Rescue will co-ordinate the rescue operations for this Sunday’s pilgrimage, with over 200 volunteers from both organisations scheduled to be on duty on the day.
The long range weather forecast predicts that Sunday will remain dry.
Keelan Moran of Westport Order of Malta has issued a warning to climbers. The challenges associated with climbing and descending the mountain should not be underestimated, he said.
“Caution is urged upon all climbers, given the challenges posed by the climb. While Croagh Patrick is a very manageable climb, it is important that all who take on the challenge do so sensibly. We are stressing the importance of climbers being suitably equipped for all weather, regardless of ground conditions. It is imperative that good footwear such as hiking boots be worn, along with warm clothes and rain gear, as well as sun protection.
“All climbers should also bring a plentiful supply of water and snacks, while extra care must be taken with children on the mountain. Given the recent spell of good weather, it is important to note that while conditions may be fine on the ground, often this is not the case towards the summit,” he said.
The Order of Malta Ambulance Corps provide over 120 volunteers, who have been drawn from all over the country, while Mountain Rescue Ireland will have over 80 volunteers on the day. Both organisations are assisted by Civil Defence teams, the Irish Air Corps, An Garda Síochána, Mayo County Council, the Murrisk Development Association, the Irish Coast Guard and Church authorities.
“Our personnel will be on hand, both on the mountain and on the ground in Murrisk throughout the day, to assist and advise pilgrims as much as possible. We ask that all climbers take note of and heed this advice. As this is such a large scale and unpredictable event, planning has been underway for months to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone taking part. The safety of our volunteers, climbers and pilgrims is our top priority and could not be protected to such high and professional standards without the co- operation of many organisations, all of whom deserve a special mention and thanks,” Mr Moran said.
Westport Order of Malta has co-ordinated the rescue and emergency services on Reek Sunday since 1943, carrying out its operations alongside the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team since 1997.
The co-operation continues throughout the year. The popularity of the mountain among climbers has lead to an increased number of emergency call-outs. According to Moran, the higher number of call-outs throughout the year has put financial pressure on the organisation, and he asks pilgrims to please support the fundraising teams in Murrisk on Sunday.
“Each year, our costs continue to rise due to insurance, utilities and higher demand on our services. It is becoming increasingly difficult as a completely voluntary organisation, which depends almost solely on donations to live within its means. We will have fundraising teams in Murrisk on the day, and we’d ask the public to be as generous as possible. Without such support, it would be impossible to continue to provide the wide range of services we make available.”
An Order of Malta medical treatment unit will be set up in Murrisk NS, where patients can be assessed and treated. There will also be three fully crewed ambulances, rapid response vehicles, a First Aid post and a medical tent on the mountain, first aid and stretcher teams, as well as communications and welfare services. Pilgrims are reminded to ask any of the authorities or volunteers for advice before or during the climb.
Mass will be celebrated the summit of Croagh Patrick every hour on the hour, starting with the first Mass at 8am and finishing with the last Mass at 2pm. Confessions will be available on the summit from 7.30am to 2pm.
The Tochar Phádraig Pilgrim Walk from Ballintubber Abbey takes place on Reek Sunday, departing the Abbey at 8.30am. This route follows the footsteps of St Patrick along what was once the chariot road that went from the royal palace at Rahcruchan, the seat of the Kings and Queens of Connacht, to Aughagower and on to Croagh Patrick. A backup car will accompany all the walkers to the end. Contact the Ballintubber Abbey Office on 094 9030934 for more details.