Croagh Patrick is Ireland’s holiest mountain. Situated 8km outside the beautiful town of Westport in Co. Mayo, it towers 762 metres above the Mayo countryside. Hundreds of thousands of people flock here every year. Some to say they’ve climbed Croagh Patrick, others on a pilgrimage.
My friends and I took a notion a couple of weeks ago to climb this holy mountain. We had it planned for weeks. Even though heights and I aren’t the best of friends, it was on my bucket list and I wanted to give it a try.
Despite Croagh Patrick being only a 50 minute drive from where I live, the last time I was there was sometime between the age of 5 and 10. I have a vague recollection of standing at the white statue of St. Patrick, which is at the start of the climb. That’s as far as I went. I at least wanted to go further than that this time.
Anyone I spoke to about the mountain said that the last part of the climb was quite steep. My heart was in my mouth listening to them. I spoke to my dad the day before and he warned me to be careful of the loose rocks. My mind was racing at this stage. If I’m unsteady just standing on a chair how was I going to climb Croagh Patrick!
The day for the climb came and I wet off for the Reek at 6.30 in the morning. It was promised to be a scorcher of a day. We decided to climb it early in the morning as it would be much cooler. After a little bit of a wait, the girls finally arrived.
So off we went to climb Croagh Patrick. There steps to tackle first, which only highlighted how unfit I am. Hoofing and puffing I passed by the statue of St. Patrick. I managed to make a comment to the girls that this was as far as I got the last time I was there. This was where the fun began. My dad was right, as dads usually are; this was not a smooth trail.
Panic began to set in as I maneuvered my way around the loose rocks. “Please don’t fall! Please don’t fall! Please don’t fall!”, I kept repeating to myself. About a mile into the ascent I looked up. The girls were ahead of me. I was nearly in tears at this point and there was still another 3 miles to climb.
I shouted to the girls that I was going to wait where I was. They didn’t want to go on ahead without me, but I insisted. I would have felt much worse if they had abandoned the climb because of me. I sat down on the rocks to try to calm myself. I felt much safer sitting than I did standing. So I just sat there admiring the beautiful view of Clew Bay. I knew though that I’d eventually have to make my way back down.
As I sat there thinking, I felt so silly for being scared. The trail was starting to get busy. I watched climbers pass me by and it seemed like everyone was bounding up that mountain with ease. With a deep breath I stood up and started the descent. All I could do was keep my head down so I couldn’t tell I was on a height. Nearly at the statue again I sat on a nearby rock to get a picture of the view of Clew Bay with the statue in it.
When I finally reached the statue my legs were like jelly and my heart was pounding with relief. The girls were amazing and climbed all the way to the top. I’m so proud of them and admire their determination and fearlessness. Would I climb Croagh Patrick again? I would probably need to invest in a few session of hypnotherapy first. It would be awesome to say one day that I climbed all the way to top of Croagh Patrick. But for now I can only say that I climbed part of the way.
Marteen is a tour guide from Ireland with a passion for culture and heritage and runs the blog It’s A Travelful Life.