A PILGRIM found dead on Croagh Patrick yesterday was a devout Catholic who regularly climbed the holy mountain.
The body of the climber, who was in his 60s and from the midlands, was discovered by a group of climbers on the mountain in Murrisk, Co Mayo, around 11.30am.
The man's body may have lain exposed on the mountain overnight, in bitterly cold and windy conditions.
Up to last evening there had been no positive identification of the dead man but local sources indicated he was from the midlands region and climbed the 2,500-ft mountain as often as several times a week.
One Murrisk resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "I don't know the man's name but he came here regularly.
"He had a grey beard and usually climbed the mountain alone. He kept to himself mostly."
Gardai were trying to ascertain last night exactly when the pilgrim climbed the mountain, which is also known as the 'Reek'.
His body was found near the oratory on the summit.
A Coastguard S-61 helicopter from Sligo was sent to the scene but was unable to land due to difficult weather conditions.
But the aircraft did manage to lower a paramedic, who pronounced the man dead at the scene.
Colm Byrne, team leader with Mayo Mountain Rescue, described conditions on the mountain yesterday as "very cold and very windy".
The body was brought by rescue personnel to a spot reached by a narrow road on the rear flank of the mountain known as Taobh na Cruaiche.
The dead man had multiple fractures on both legs, which suggests he had fallen.
The remains were then transferred by hearse to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out to determine cause of death, which is expected to be hypothermia or a heart attack.
Gardai are appealing for help to identify the man.
A Coastguard spokesman confirmed that the helicopter could not land on the mountain because of the appalling weather conditions.
"The weather was horrendous. The helicopter crew said it was very dangerous for them. There were severe winds."