Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. Anthony D'Alessandro

3/27/2008 (8 years ago)

The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com)

WESTPORT, County Mayo, Ireland (The Christian Science Monitor) - Running with the bulls triggered more terror, but climbing Ireland's Croagh Patrick proved tougher.

CLIMBING CROAGH - A man made a barefoot ascent of Croagh Patrick to mark St. Patrick's 5th-century fast on the mountain's summit. (Haydn West)

CLIMBING CROAGH - A man made a barefoot ascent of Croagh Patrick to mark St. Patrick's 5th-century fast on the mountain's summit. (Haydn West)

Highlights

By F. Anthony D'Alessandro

The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com)

3/27/2008 (8 years ago)

Published in Health



While I carefully planned strategies for a year in advance to successfully run in Pamplona, Spain, my climb of Croagh Patrick (St. Patrick's Mountain) in Ireland was totally impromptu.

My wife, Adele; her sister, Geraldine; Geraldine's husband, Gerard; and I rented a car at Galway airport. After an overnight stay on the desolate Aran Islands, we were ready for mainland excitement. We planned on visiting places such as Yates's Sligo, as well as the city of Westport.

Westport, a postcard-worthy seaport town in County Mayo, is 115 miles from Shannon airport. We decided to book our next bed and breakfast there. After plopping our luggage in our rooms, we asked our proprietress, Kay, for sightseeing recommendations.

"Easy," she said. "Today is Reek Sunday. Why not climb Croagh Patrick?"

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but none of us had ever heard of Reek Mountain, as Croagh Patrick is also known. Another of her guests explained: "It's always the last Sunday in July. On this day, devoted folks try to follow in St. Patrick's footsteps to the summit."

I could feel my feet tapping. We were going to climb Ireland's highest peak. Since Reek Mountain stood just a few miles out of town, the proprietress recommended our walking there. But we'd learned already that "a short walk" in Ireland was not similar in any way to a short walk in the United States.

Tackling the ascent

Before the B&B's cuckoo clock welcomed its next hour, our rental car chugged and idled in the snaky line leading to mountain's parking area.

Our enthusiasm swelling, we jogged across the lot toward the mountain's base. We slipped past several souvenir stands, food vendors, and giveaways of small Bibles and religious brochures.

The inviting food aroma seemed similar to that of New York's San Gennaro festival. The Irish outdoor chefs barbecued tasty morsels of chops and hamburgers that made one salivate. After savoring these foods, we attended to the business of climbing Croagh Patrick.

Confident and relaxed, we chatted about St. Patrick's climb of this 2,500-foot-high mountain, his legendary release of snakes, and his 40-day fast. It seemed like just a few feet into our ascent that we came upon a statue of St. Patrick. I had to stop and greet him with reverence.

People trudged by on all sides. Some were on their way up, some on their way down. Some sat on rocks. About an hour into the climb, I began to dislike those rock sitters. I could have planted myself on the granite they occupied.

Different strokes

Some people climbed in large groups, following banners. Some climbed in twos, some alone.

Someone on the downward climb yodeled my way, "Only an hour to go." While the message seemed encouraging, it also proved to be a downer. We found cozy stones, boulders, and rocks to sit on. I was struck by their appearance. These granite rocks - drab, boring, and ugly - looked to me like moon rocks. They were in stark contrast to the beautiful near-mountaintop view of the harbor stretching below.

As I sat massaging my toes, a snowy-haired, seasoned climber loped past me. To add to my disappointment, two other climbers trekked back down past us after reaching the summit. These two, actually walking barefooted, shouted words of encouragement.

But it would take a lot more than pep-rally words to move any of us skyward now. We climbed another 15 minutes and then stopped. Boy, were we spent. We were ill-prepared for the climb. Whether we were more than halfway up or not, the thought of climbing that last section - which appeared almost perpendicular - convinced us to head back down.

For my bull run, I'd practiced almost daily for an entire year - sans bulls, of course. I'd worn the proper clothing. I'd studied films and read about San Fermin's festival.

Today, we'd failed to make the most basic preparations, such as wearing the correct climbing shoes, carrying water, and, most important, equipping ourselves with walking sticks.

Despite rumors of an Irish cardinal commandeering a helicopter and offering a religious service up top, despite the glory a successful mountain conquest promised, prudence dictated our return to ground level.

We'd survived the modified experience. Someday, we decided, we'd revisit with appropriate attire, to complete this challenge.

'I'm so proud of you Americans'

The next afternoon, we met with Gerard's relatives. Wanting to boast a little, I mentioned our hour-plus climb. The Irish relatives were so thrilled to hear this. It seems that our hostess, Gerard's septuagenarian Irish aunt, along with her son, who was about our age, had been there, too.

There was a slight difference, however, since this woman and her son had climbed to the summit of Croagh Patrick.

"I'm so proud of you Americans," Auntie O'Shea sincerely said. "Perhaps someday you'll make it to the summit, too. We do that every year."

A bit embarrassed, I crept into a corner chair and sat, hesitant to speak. Right now, I'm trying to figure out the best way to pack a walking stick for international travel.



Comments


More Health

God is good! Man learns to walk after FOUR DECADES in wheelchair Watch

Image of Rufino Borrego (not pictured) no longer requires his wheelchair.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Rufino Borrego was only 13-years-old when he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, leading to 43-years of his life spent confined to a wheelchair. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Borrego was diagnosed by doctors at a Lisbon hospital and he spent the majority of ... continue reading


5 things you NEED to know about drug-resistant superbugs and antimicrobial resistance Watch

Image of Do YOU know how to protect yourself?

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The United Nations General Assembly voted to take "a broad coordinated approach" to antimicrobial resistance, which is growing at such an alarming rate, millions are expected to die by 2050. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "This is only the fourth time a health ... continue reading


St. Padre Pio helps dying newborn miraculously recover after 25 DAYS on life support Watch

Image of (Photo by: Ciara Wilkinson/Irish Mirror)

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Three-month-old Caitlin Dooley suffered from a life-threatening heart condition since the day she was born. Just when the Dooley family began to lose hope, St. Padre Pio stepped in. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Irish Mirror, at just 11-days-old, ... continue reading


Pray for the children with brain cancer - the number 1 cancer responsible for childhood deaths Watch

Image of The number one cancer killing children in the US is of the brain.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A new federal report revealed brain cancer is now the leading cancer killer of children in the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sally Curtin and her colleagues at the NCHS, part of the CDC, discovered brain tumors and leukemia are the two  most ... continue reading


Harvard scientists reveal surprising footage dubbed 'Hollywood wizardry' Watch

Image of Harvard scientists release a timelapse video featuring the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Harvard scientists have finally released video evidence of the astounding strength of nature. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientists have long attempted to find a cure for bacteria-related illness such as the common cold but in a new video recently released by ... continue reading


'The killing of an innocent human being is always wrong'- Doctors suggest killing coma patients to harvest organs Watch

Image of Is it right to kill coma patients for their organs?

By Kevin J. Jones (CNA/EWTN News)

There are severe ethical shortcomings in a British doctor's proposal to help unconscious patients die so their organs can be used for transplants, one critic has said. London, England (CNA/EWTN News) - "The killing of an innocent human being is always wrong - even when ... continue reading


Don't blame the free market for drug prices out of control -- blame corruption Watch

Image of Prescription drug prices are higher in the USA than anywhere in the world.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

It's no secret that prescription drug prices in the U.S. are out of control. Americans pay far more for their drugs than people in any other industrialized nation. This excess needs correction before it collapses the American healthcare system. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'Loneliness has to be everybody's business' - How being alone can affect your mental and physical health Watch

Image of You don't have to be alone.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In this age of connection, researchers have discovered a surprising rise in people suffering debilitating loneliness - but there is hope. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Fortune describes chronic loneliness as a "modern-day epidemic."John Cacioppo, the director of ... continue reading


Scientists resurrect an ancient killer plague, but why? Watch

Image of The Plague of Justinian killed almost 15 percent of the world's population in the sixth century AD.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Scientists have reconstructed the genome of an ancient bacteria that was responsible for one of the most devastating plagues in human history. The Plague of Justinian has been resurrected, at least in the lab. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Plague of ... continue reading


New study reveals the truth about sexual orientation and gender identity Watch

Image of The truth about sexual orientation and gender identity (McPIG: An Introduction to the McGill University Sexual Identity Centre).

By (CNA/EWTN News)

For most young people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria, the experience is in fact temporary, and a non-heterosexual orientation is not as fixed as sometimes claimed, a new overview of the relevant research says. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Only a ... continue reading


All Health News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
9 While I was watching, thrones were set in place and one most venerable ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5
1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have ... Read More

Gospel, John 1:47-51
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, 'There, truly, is an ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 29th, 2016 Image

St. Michael the Archangel
September 29: Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but ... Read More