photo by Pawel Sadowski
Those of you who know us well, especially those who followed the blog in years past, know of our multi-year obsession with climbing Croagh Patrick, St. Patrick's sacred mountain. The mountain is just outside Westport, approximately 8 miles along toward Louisburgh. It is said that Patrick spent forty days and forty nights at the top of this mountain's peak, praying and fasting, before setting out to evangelize all of Ireland. And, in fact, there is archeological evidence, dating to around 400 AD, that this might indeed be the case. Pious Irish people have always considered the climb of Croagh (Crow) Patrick to be a critical part of their faith life. True pilgrims climb "The Reek" barefoot (we've seen some) and the mountain is the scene of a frenetic annual event - Reek Sunday - last Sunday in July - in which upwards of thirty thousand people ascend to the top in a single day. There, they'll find a number of priests celebrating Mass every half-hour, and hearing confessions throughout the day. The local archbishop (a cousin to our friend Marion) is always there - he can be seen climbing to the summit each year. On your climb, you'd have the opportunity to complete three "stations" and, for this, receive a plenary indulgence (not certain these are still a thing). Personally, I kinda liked when you could just buy them...
The mountain is 764 metres (2,507 feet) high. Certainly not Everest, but I promise you you'll feel challenged. There are few gentle stretches - the "shoulder" area would offer a bit of respite between the initial climb and your ascent to the top. It will be less challenging vertically, but you'll be wise to watch your step in order to not turn an ankle on the rocky terrain. It took us five attempts over five years until we finally stood on the top and drank in the astounding views of Clew Bay, Clare Island, and the distant Atlantic Ocean. If following in our footsteps :-P (not to mention St. Patrick's) is part of your plans, be sure to pack sturdy climbing shoes and sensible clothes that will allow you deal with changes in temperature and weather conditions as you climb and descend. Multi-layers are recommended. Bring a backpack with energy snacks and plenty of water. And, of course, a quality rain jacket is essential.