Despite the cancellation of the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage due to Covid-19, there was still a steady stream of pilgrims making their way up to the summit of Croagh Patrick early on Sunday morning. There were traffic cones in place to prevent people from parking in the streets of the nearby village of Murrisk and there was a heavy Garda presence on the roads going in and out of the village in the morning.
There were far fewer pilgrims making their way up the mountain, according to the patrons of the shop at the base of the mountain who sold teas, coffees, food and walking sticks. They estimated that about a quarter of the usual foot traffic that would be present on Reek Sunday was there today, owing to the current public health advice and the cancellation of the pilgrimage.
For some who did make their way to Murrisk for the climb, it was a case of keeping with their own traditions. Padraig Shalley said today would be about his 45th or 46th time climbing the mountain. He said he would have liked if mass and confessions had gone ahead as usual and added he would miss those traditions this year.
Originally from New England, USA, Gordon Celender endeavoured to climb the Holy Mountain at least once a year since first moving to Ireland 16 years ago, particularly on Reek Sunday when he plays hymns for the pilgrims as part of the religious ceremonies. This year would be no different, as he came armed with his guitar. Gordon said he gets a great feeling from the climb.
“I get a great sense of inspiration and exhilaration every time I come here. Not just from my own climb but from the all the pilgrims around me. It is a great and beautiful experience every time.”
His travelling companion Michael Ferry, who was climbing for the first time, said he was going to straight in at the deep end and was taking on the challenge barefoot.
Ryan Lanigan, age 7, was climbing for the first time with his mum Donna and had great aspirations of running into his favourite Mayo player, Aidan O’Shea during the ascent. Donna and Ryan have had great experience mountaineering this year thus far, having climbed Mweelrea in May with Diamond Hill next on their radar.
A number of climbers today were staying in the local area as part of the ‘staycation’ craze and hints of Cork, Donegal and Dublin accents were undoubtedly audible around Clew Bay throughout the day. James Farrell from Dublin had hit the road in his camper van and decided to make a pit stop at Croagh Patrick on his way home.
“This is my first time climbing this one, but I did Carrauntoohill this year already and so I said I’d do Croagh Patrick while I’m in the area.”