Friday 30 September 2016

Storm clouds gather over The Reek

Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30

All over the world there are famous places of pilgrimage which are visited by hundreds of millions of people annually, often enduring great hardship on the way.

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It must be deeply satisfying in achieving one's goal of visiting Mecca or trekking along the Camino de Santiago.

Here in Ireland, thousands happily embrace the pain of three days fasting on Lough Derg, but the most famous of our home grown pilgrimages is the annual climb of Croagh Patrick. I have never done this but recall my brothers heading up the Reek with just water for sustenance on a sunny summers day many years ago.

About half way up a mist descended and they had to sit freezing in the one spot until visibility returned and they could retreat safely.

A further abiding memory was in the month of May when I was seven or eight years of age and my father insisted we swim from the shores of Mulranny beach.

On that day Croagh Patrick was a magnificent sight, standing starkly against a clear sky with the summit covered in snow. It is etched forever in my mind because the sea was bloody freezing!

The Reek is currently making headlines thanks to the persistence of pilgrims (and adventure runners) whose feet are wearing away the rock and pathways.

Despite the traditional climb being cancelled this year, many still insisted on risking life and limb by clambering up the mountainside.

Should the paths be restored or not? Apparently this will cost €1.5m and is the cause of some heated argument.

Whatever happens, large crowds will return each year because making a pilgrimage is clearly something that is embedded deep within the human psyche.

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