Posted: 4th May 2013

On the 6th of April 2013 eight lads from Transition Year set out to climb Croagh Patrick barefooted in aid of the Duck Push. We were inspired by my uncle who suggested that we should do something challenging and different so we put our heads together and, after ruling out the ideas like skydiving and bungee jumping, we decided to climb Croagh Patrick “Barefoot”.

It took longer than we expected to organise the occasion. There were small things that we didn’t anticipate, such as getting permits for collecting and organizing food and accommodation. Tadhg Lonergan’s parents, Trudy and Pat, kindly offered to let us camp out in their back garden at the foot of the mountain while Tadhg and Eoghan Ward let us use their tents.

When the time came we all made our way up to Westport the day before the climb. Tadhg and Eoghan already had the tents pitched, and Pat and Trudy very kindly had a barbeque for us that evening. As we had grossly underestimated our provisions we were extremely grateful! We all packed our rucksacks with some bits and pieces for the climb the next day, and topped the night off with a campfire.

The weather on the run up to the climb had been awful. There was snow, sleet and rain for days before the climb and it was cold. Our parents thought we were mad. However, we were absolutely blessed as the weather changed and the sun shone. It couldn’t have been better especially as the ground started to warm up – a huge advantage to the barefooted climber!

Bright and early on Saturday morning we embarked on our climb in glorious sunshine. It was going to be a great challenge. The first slope is a very gradual easy looking climb. However, once you enter ‘the gate’ of Croagh Patrick, it gets rockier, but is thankfully spotted with moss and grass. However as we powered through the climb, it was clear that the path leading up to the shoulder was a lot more challenging, stony and very painful on the feet! The final stretch is a very steep slope of loose scree and jagged rocks, where most accidents happen with shoes. It was with trepidation that we embarked on this stage because on this slope, the rocks are quite big, big enough to put your whole foot on. There was no spot where we could take refuge, so we had to suck it up and get through it!

Fellow climbers on the mountain were very kind and supportive to us. They stopped and talked to us and we told them about the Duck Push. Some people dropped some money into our buckets and Robbie White collecting at the bottom caught those who didn’t. He unfortunately couldn’t climb due to an ankle injury but did great work charming donations from everyone.

It was very satisfying when we reached the top in two hours exactly. There was a great sense of camaraderie between us as pats on the backs went round, especially to Max Browne who seemed to walk up the mountain painlessly, and much quicker than everybody else! Great credit is due to Tadhg’s younger brother, Hugh, who took off his shoes and did the climb barefoot with us. In total we made €2,176 towards the Duck Push and were all very proud of ourselves and happy that we made such a big contribution.

We would like to say a big thank you to Trudy and Pat for without them we wouldn’t have had a place to pitch our tents and would also have been very hungry! Also thanks to Shirley and Peter Madden who helped us with the smooth running of the event. Most importantly thanks to all the lads, Tadhg Lonergan, Eoghan Ward, Max Browne, Robbie White, Sergiu Morar, Aaron Murray and James Caffrey, not only because they went out of their way during the holidays to do this climb, but also because they made it a great weekend.

Fionnan Madden

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