Climbing the Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick

climbing croagh patrick

Climbing Croagh Patrick

I’m not going to lie, the morning we woke to tackle the Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick the sky was not looking good.

To be fair to the lads, it didn’t deter their spirits and we all decided we were going to tackle the mountain even with a looming dark sky hanging above us.

climbing croagh patrick
And we're off

It actually added an adventurous energy to the day and made the hike ahead seem more challenging.

Unlike Indiana Jones, the guys decided that they would climb the mountain, but that they needed raincoats, so in we went to Westport town to try and find some cheap rain gear to tackle the torrential rain of the day that my weather App was telling me was fast approaching.

climbing croagh patrick

As we drove back toward the mountain, we all had a slight moment of optimism as we thought we could see a glimpse of a clearing sky in the grey sky.

We parked up in the car park at the bottom of the mountain, put on the gear that we needed, took off the gear we didn’t, looked at each other, took a breath and set off.

climbing croagh patrick

At the bottom of the mountain, you are immediately greeted by a statue of the man himself – Saint Patrick. This allowed me a lovely little opportunity to regale my English friends with tales of history and legend around the iconic figure that is Saint Patrick and of the relationship of him as a saint to the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick.

As with all mountain climbs, it’s the first 30 minutes to an hour where it gets difficult.

You feel like you’re going nowhere, the legs start burning a little with that initial reminder of how unfit you are, and the top of the mountain seems nowhere in sight.

Unbelievably, the weather stayed clear and we were awaiting the rain to come back at any moment.

climbing croagh patrick

Much to our surprise, the clouds seemed to part more, and the day started to warm up.

Coats were removed, hats were taken off, and halfway up the mountain, we started feeling that fresh air, energy and feeling alive as we neared the top of the Holy Mountain.

Once you break through that first barrier of sweat where you blast your body, lungs and heart, a newfound energy and lease for life kicks in.

climbing croagh patrick

As you find a rhythm and become more surefooted you start enjoying that outdoor feeling of a physical challenge awakening your body, mind and soul while having the craic with your friends.

Stories, banter and conversation flowed as we climbed.

There must be a relationship between digging deep physically and getting deep mentally, as when you’re doing something with great physical exertion it seems to bring forth the desire to speak about things on a much deeper level and you begin to connect with the people around you more genuinely as you all face the challenge together.

climbing croagh patrick
Catching our breath

An hour in, you begin to leave the beautiful views of Clew Bay as you move into the clouds.

The air gets a little lighter, crisper and fresher and coats came on as we all felt a little tingle of excitement as we neared the top.

It’s around now I think we all found a new gear as we pushed passed physical exhaustion into excitement as we thought we were near the top. (We weren’t)

The last 30 minutes of climbing Croagh Patrick is where it gets tricky.

climbing croagh patrick
The difficult upper scree section

The larger stones, boulders and rocks of the lower part of the mountain change into smaller stones and scree which can be quite difficult to climb.

There are many points where you have to use your hands on the mountain, and getting a grip to move forward can be exhausting.

looking out on croagh patrick
Looking out over Co. Mayo half way up the Holy Mountain

A hard 10 minutes of climbing can result in moving very little and you can begin to feel like you’re going nowhere.

Finally, after 30 minutes of hard climbing, the ground finally flattens out and through the clouds you see the famous church of Saint Patrick.

The famous Croagh Patrick Sign

Exhausted but excited, hangovers were truly sweated out as we all took a photo together at the famous Croagh Patrick sign.

We then circled the church, laughing and joking, and imagining what it was like to be a pilgrim here hundreds of years before or to be Saint Patrick himself as he sat here for 40 days meditating.

croagh patrick church
Croagh Patrick Church

Moving to the edge of the mountain, we all took a few moments to enjoy being on top of the mountain, and just at that moment, the clouds parted to give us a brief view of the entirety of Clew Bay and all 100 islands. It was a truly spectacular sight, and the brief moment it lasted made it all the more special.

With a few photos and high-fives, we began our descent.

The descent is as tricky as the climb, with it being quite tough on the knees and taking a little bit of sure-footedness to make your way down; especially the first 30 minutes past the scree.

climbing croagh patrick
The view of Clew Bay from Croagh Patrick

The climb down is even more beautiful as you are now facing the incredible beauty of the 100 islands of Clew Bay.

As we reached the bottom, no one had to say anything. We all saw the sign to the local pub, the local Railway Tavern, where Guinness and a fine feed was awaiting us.

An incredible, beautiful and challenging climb which pushes the body and calms the mind.

Paul Feeney
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