Peak time as pilgrims take holy mountain in their stride
FOR 364 days of the year the mountain is largely his own, but for 24 hours local man PJ Syron shares his beloved Croagh Patrick with over 20,000 pilgrims.
The Mayo man has climbed Croagh Patrick almost every day for the past 15 years. Yesterday he managed to make it to the top and back in under two hours, running most of the way and sharing the climb with the thousands who made their way to the Mayo mountain for Reek Sunday.
"I've missed a day now and again but I climb every day if I can. It's at least five times a week for the past 15 years.
"It's a great personal challenge but people need to do their homework on this mountain, they need to know it," he said.
While the estimated 20,000 climbers was down on previous years, organisers pointed out that this year the walks had taken place all week as part of the Gathering celebrations.
Catherine Kelleher and her son Naoise (13), from Boston, where enjoying their second Reek Sunday climb. Despite finding this year more difficult than last, they vowed to make it three in a row next year.
"This year was tougher because it was warmer but it won't put us off for next year," said Catherine.
The Papal Nuncio to Ireland, his Excellency Charles Brown, climbed the Reek early yesterday morning with Archbishop Michael Neary, where both said Mass at the top. "It was a great joy for me just to see the faith of the people and the big crowds at Mass and tonnes of confessions at the top, it's really beautiful, a great sign of vitality in the Catholic Church in Ireland," he said.
For Marie Fehilly (18) and Seana Coveney (18) from west Cork, this was their first trip up the mountain and they said a little prayer at the top in the hope of getting good Leaving Cert results. "We didn't go for any religious reasons, just for the day out. We're waiting on our results so it might help," said Seana.