Pilgrims to Croagh Patrick are urged to save their soles
IT has always been a climb that's hard on the sole but good for the soul.
Now pilgrims intending to climb Croagh Patrick this weekend have been told to bring shoes as mountain rescuers say they cannot help everyone tired or injured by the ordeal.
Mayo Mountain Rescue Team has advised, for the first time ever, that climbing the 2,510ft (764 metre) mountain without footwear is not recommended.
Even for the youngest and fittest pilgrims, the climb will result in very tender feet lasting for a number of days, the team points out in a comprehensive safety document issued in advance of the traditional 'Reek Sunday' pilgrimage.
For those determined to shed their shoes, the rescue unit urges that pilgrims bring some form of footwear with them which they can put on if the effort becomes too painful.
On Sunday, Mayo Mountain Rescue will act as the co-ordinating team for 11 mountain rescue teams from all over the country.
From early on, there will be in excess of 150 mountain rescue personnel on the mountain backed up by Order of Malta, Civil Defence and the Garda Siochana. For safety reasons, the unit urges that each pilgrim carry a stick and maintain a very slow and careful pace while ascending and descending the mountain.
Flip flops, wellingtons, sandals and stilettos have been given the boot by the rescue unit, which says they are unsuitable.
Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to climb Croagh Patrick for the national pilgrimage on Sunday, including the Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary, who will celebrate 10.30am Mass in the mountaintop oratory.