Reek Sunday claims its price again

The Irish Times reports that thirteen people, including a ten year old boy, had to be rescued from Croagh Patrick yesterday during the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage.

I climbed Croagh Patrick a couple of months back in aid of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, and in memory of one of my wife’s ex-colleagues who passed away last year.

While it is within the capabilities of a slightly out of shape adult (i.e. me), it is absolutely not a Sunday stroll. It is an energetic climb, and the footing is treacherous in places. It would be very easy to turn an ankle or worse if you lost concentration or slipped on a wet rock. Perhaps rashly, I had brought a full DSLR with me to record the occasion, and it slowed me down so much that I missed the summiting event I had intended to record (I did get some good ones). And yet I was far from the most foolish person on the mountain that day.

I saw so many people on the climb that should never have been there. I saw one larger woman fall and roll over and be unable to get up by herself. I saw one exhausted pensioner lying prone on the 45° rubble slope near the top, with his friend calmly telling him to take his time and rest for as long as he wanted. I saw one young man struggling with his footing as he ascended barefoot (he was shod when I passed him coming back down). And then there were the iron men, who ran full tilt all the way up and all the way back down, scattering stones and rockfalls in their wake regardless of others around them. I saw teenagers in flip flops. I saw a family with an 8 year old girl.

All these people, with respect, were idiots. Mountain rescue have enough to be doing without people giving them more work through lack of preparation, lack of situational awareness, or just reckless disregard for the risks that can catch out even the most experienced climber. Look at the headline picture on that Times article and note the gear that Mountain Rescue were wearing. Would you see them in flip flops? Or barefoot?

Mountaineering is not a joke, and despite its familiar image the Reek is a mountain that needs to be respected like any other.


  • Oriel27

    I congratulate the rescue teams from all over Ireland who help on on this mountain every year, its a credit to them and i am in awe of their selfless dedication.

    I climbed it myself last year, i would be reasonably fit, i completed it in an 1hr and 50 minutes.

    Its a hellish mountain to climb.

    But some people clearly should not do it, people need to be honest with themselves regarding their physical fitness and preparedness.

    One can have a devotion to the Lord in order ways without putting the lives of volunteers at risk.

    Also, i think climbing the mountain should be closed for 5 years. The erosion on the mountain face is shocking. Its easy to see the walking trail up the mountain from miles away.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Bare feet no doubt, Oriel?

  • Oriel27

    Ha, no way. i think thats a ridiculous thing to do. Again, it puts the pressure on the rescue services – if you cut your feet and unable to walk etc.
    You got to treat the climb with respect, have the proper footwear etc.

  • Rónán Kernan

    I was there yesterday with the Mourne MRT. THe views expressed here are my own and not the team’s.
    We were on duty from 4am to midday and were directly involved with one rescue and saw several others. Mayo MRT ran a fantastic operation and did a great job both looking after walkers and the visiting MR teams.

    Ultimately, everyone there from all the voluntary teams involved (all of the Mountain Rescue Teams involved, Cave Rescue and the Order of Malta) was a volunteer and if we didn’t want to be there, we wouldn’t. Volunteers are there to help and aren’t putting themselves at any more risk than they want to – they know how to look after themselves and each other in the hills. I have seen some suggesting that those climbing should be forced to pay for the rescue teams etc but ultimately this is against the voluntary spirit of what the teams stand for and I don’t think anyone should have to pay.

    The state of the path up the Reek, on the other hand, is dire. Stabilisation works, such as those that have taken place in the Mournes in recent years under the auspices of the Mourne Heritage Trust (such as the path up the north side of Slieve Binnian) are badly needed. However, with tens of thousands climbing a mountain as happened yesterday, injuries are inevitable and a better path might only serve to encourage even greater numbers and thus increase the risks in that respect. Ultimately, even small hills like we have an Ireland are dangerous and the more people on them at once, the higher the risk.
    Perhaps those who are inadequately equipped could be strongly discouraged before setting off but it would be almost impossible to turn people away.

    Interestingly, those that climb the Reek barefoot never seem to get into any trouble – they take a lot more care and seem to know their limits better!

  • Brian O’Neill

    I walked it years ago and I was surprised how difficult it was. There is lots of loose shingle that is quite tricky to climb and mist is really common. I was amazed to find an entire church at the top!

    I think you are being a little unfair. It is good that people keep up these traditions and because it is a set route it is easy for the mountain rescue people to take people of the mountain. Also I am sure the mountain rescue people are glad of some practice. But yes some basic common sense and good footwear is needed.

    Finally most of irelands ‘mountains’are dead easy to climb. I accidentally walked up slieve donard in my jeans and hush puppies. I was out for a stroll with a friend and before we knew it we were halfway up and just decided to keep going. It is not a tough climb, just a bit tedious in that bottom forest bit.

  • Rónán Kernan

    Donard (and almost all of our hills) is indeed easy 95% of the time but the weather can change very rapidly – particularly at this time of year sudden and heavy rain/ hailstorms are not uncommon. Slips and trips on the steps are common and it’s very easy to get very cold while you’re sitting there waiting for rescue. The relative ease of climbing our hills is what gets a lot of people into trouble – most of the time you’re fine in jeans and hush puppies, but if the weather turns or you take a tumble then you can be in severe trouble.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Yeah I think we got lucky with the conditions, I do remember it being extremely windy at the top. Thank you for all your good work keeping Muppets like me safe ?

  • murdockp

    Surely god would intervene on such matters.

    That’s the whole reason for being there

  • Nordie Northsider

    I saw the headline ‘Reek Sunday claims its price again’ and thought it was another piece about Kevin Myers and the Sunday Times.

  • Tochais Siorai


    It’s a pagan site.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    This and a nasty brawl outside a church in Ballymena. Is God trying to tell his followers something?

  • Andrew Gallagher

    Even experienced and well prepared people can die in the Mournes. All you need to do is to slip and fall off the path. Take for example my former lecturer, the late John Earnshaw:

  • Croiteir

    Anti -Catholicism dressed up as concern.

  • Sean Danaher

    Indeed very sad. I knew him through the Institute of Physics. From 2001 the Earnshaw medal has been awarded for the best undergraduate project on an all Ireland basis in his memory and honour.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    It would be interesting to compare the number of arrests, stabbings, brawls, etc at this event as compared with various pop festivals. Or the amount of drug-taking, open-air sex orgies etc as compared with various ‘Pride’ parades. Or the number of bricks and bottles thrown at the police as compared with various Orange or Republican marches.

  • NotNowJohnny

    “Mountain rescue have enough to be doing” …… without having to rescue people from mountains.

  • CB

    That Catholicism is less craic than Pride is generally taken for granted, so you’re probably over labouring the point.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    All sorts of activities make calls on the various services. Think of the number of police that have to be used to prevent football fans rioting. Should football matches be stopped? Or the numbers of medical personnel that have to attend to those who have drug-overdosed or drunk themselves into a coma or been stabbed at pop concerts. Should these be stopped? In comparison, this particular event makes a very limited call on resources. Exceptionally well-behaved people – no drunkenness, no rioting, no stabbings, no arrests, no screaming obscenities – just a handful of people who struggled a bit when climbing a mountain. That Gallagher has singled these out for attack tells it all. Modern liberalism is an ugly creature which tolerates no opinion or activity different from its own. If the participants had planted the rainbow flag at the summit, engaged in group sex (preferably with members of the same sex) or smoked a few reefers, all would have been forgiven and they’d have been exempt from criticism.

  • The worm!

    It was Saturday evening mass.

    If it had been Sunday maybe he’d have intervened.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    At least he gets some time off. I’d better check my employment contract before it’s construed as ‘divinely inspired’.

  • Croiteir

    Perhaps He was saying this is the behaviour you will indulge in if you do not believe in me?