Thousands brave Reek climb

Pilgrims gather to climb Croagh Patrick

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people of all ages and fitness levels completed the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage up Ireland’s holiest mountain last weekend.

Grabbing their climbing boots, raincoats, backpacks and walking sticks, pilgrims made the trek up the rocky slope of Croagh Patrick, some in groups of friends or families, some individually, while others chose to make the climb with canine companions.

People were attracted to climb Croagh Patrick for a variety of reasons, with some pilgrims stopping along the route to say prayers, while others paused to appreciate the stunning view of Clew Bay in the sun.

Michelle from Carrickmore in Co. Tyrone, who was making her fifth climb, told The Irish Catholic: “We come here because we follow and believe in Jesus Christ. It’s a pilgrimage, so we come here to show our faith.”

At 764 metres high, Croagh Patrick is not for the faint-hearted. Not only steep in places, loose stones and shale make it quite a struggle. Mayo Mountain Rescue and the Order of Malta were kept busy with 17 casualties during the pilgrimage, including two people who had to be airlifted off the mountain.


However, despite the potential dangers every year pilgrims brave the steep climb, many barefoot, to make it to the chapel on the summit where Mass is said every 30 minutes from 8am and Confession is made available by a number of priests working throughout the day.

Claire Martin from Dungannon, who was making her first climb, said there was great camaraderie. “Everyone talks to each other, which is lovely. When you’re standing catching your breath people ask you if you’re ok,” she said.

“Spiritually it was amazing. Having the Mass – the whole experience was outstanding.”

In his homily at Mass on the summit, Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, who makes the climb every year, spoke of the central role of hope in faith. “The biblical message of hope is to dream large dreams about powerful purposes of God. Hope does not consist of losing control, but of relinquishing it in trust,” he said.