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.
Andrew is a native Ulsterman and honorary Galwegian now living and working in Dublin. An IT manager by day and dilettante political hack by night, he has also been known to dabble in fundamental physics and musical theatre.