Girl (3) with hypothermia among 12 Croagh Patrick climbers rescued in gale force weather winds
Three year old girl was amongst 12 pilgrims who had to be rescued off Croagh Patrick in gale force weather winds, despite warnings issued not to climb.
A decision was made to cancel all masses amid the worst weather conditions on Reek Sunday at least 60 years.
However many pilgrims still took the decision to continue their climb, regardless.
Team leader of Mayo Mountain Rescue Jerome Hopkins told Independent.ie that it was the first time in living memory that the Reek Sunday masses were cancelled, following much discussion between safety groups, priests and the authorities.
A tough Polar-expedition type tent used as a central point for treating the victims was damaged in the Gale Force Eight winds on Saturday, Mr Hopkins revealed.
He said the first victim was rescued at 3.15am in the early hours of Sunday morning while the final pilgrim, a woman with a twisted ankle, was taken off the mountain at 9.30pm that night, in a gruelling day for the rescue teams.
Amongst the victims was a three year old girl, suffering from hypothermia, after becoming wet and cold. She was wearing light clothing.
Many of the pilgrims rescued were wearing “inappropriate clothing” such as cotton t-shirts, shorts and inadequate footwear, such as runners or light shoes, he said.
Mr Hopkins said it was “fair enough to say that we were lucky there were no fatalities or major incidents” that day, saying that while the event is “a problem every year” for Mountain Rescue teams, this year’s conditions were particularly bad.
“We plan Reek Sunday months in advance,” he said, adding: “We have to take account of the fact that there will be hundreds on the hill.”
Paul Feeney from Mayo Mountain Rescue told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that one of the things that stood out for him over the weekend while they were up on Saturday was a young couple carrying a 12 week old baby up the mountain.
The Mountain Rescue team advised the couple that they “should not be on this mountain, carrying a 12-week-old baby up the side of a mountain. They ignored us and continued on,” he said.
“We work on this hill, we know exactly what it can do and how quickly things can turn bad – listen to what we’re saying,” he said.
Speaking this afternoon on RTE's Liveline, one woman, named Marcy, defended her decision to climb the mountain:
"[The conditions] were fine.. when we got the top there was no wind, a little bit of mist, you couldn't see any of the lovely scenery down below.
"We met various people who were up at the top and they said 'no it's not bad at all'"
"I felt very confident we were going to be alright - there was an awful lot of people going up and down with us," she said.
A man named Paschal, who climbed the mountain with his two children (aged eight and 10), also said that the conditions weren't too bad as they climbed:
"I knew the mountain pretty well from doing in many times. I knew at least half of it is pretty much just a walk," he said.
"At least I could give the kids the experience of that, and from there where it starts to get a little bit tougher I could asses it from there and that's what I did."