110 young people from Derry Diocese tackle the climb
Over 15,000 pilgrims make the challenging climb up Croagh Patrick each year. This year, from the Diocese of Derry, 110 young people with their teachers, and ourselves, members of the Derry Youth Community, were numbered among that 15,000. The buses left Derry at 6.30am, and the long journey was spent partly sleeping and partly preparing for the day ahead.
We arrived in a flurry of mixed feelings and emotions, both excited and daunted at the prospect of the difficult climb facing us. After Fr Sean O’Donnell had offered a prayer and blessing for the ordeal ahead, we set off. It proved to be an amazing experience: pilgrims talked together, encouraged each other and exchanged laughter, fun and life stories.
This was during the comparatively gentle first half of the climb, which deceived us into thinking we would reach the summit with ease, but as we continued our ascend, the climb became steeper and steeper until with every couple of steps forward we found ourselves sliding a step backwards.
Reaching the summit
We eventually reached the summit, exhausted but elated, and drank in the spectacular views. Fr Sean celebrated mass in the mountain top chapel, after which we enjoyed a welcome lunch. Spirits were high as we began the descent; the hardest part of the journey was over and all we had in front of us was the downward hike. We felt as if we were flying down, and indeed, much to the amusement of the group, some of us did actually fly off our feet.
How we appreciated the local hotel’s comfortable chairs and appetising dinner. We had great fun exchanging stories of the climb with other pilgrims we hadn’t previously met. On the bus home the atmosphere was one of great camaraderie and achievement; we had, after all, shared one of the most challenging experiences of our lives.