Last week, I did something that I thought was a bit superfluous. I went to an outdoor adventure store to buy hiking boots.
What? you’re thinking. But I know you, Annie! Are they hiking boots made of chocolate?
You know what? Forget you! I’m climbing a mountain!
I must have been subconsciously admiring my friend Brendan’s boots for the past 2 weeks, because when I got home with my new boots, it became apparent that they were the ladies’ version of an old friend.
But I digress.
When I woke up yesterday, it was “pissing rain” in Galway. But I got out of bed anyway and I put on my extravagant boots (already wondering why I’d bought such a thing) and met Becca at the bus station. Because we had plans. Plans to climb the spawn of the devil himself, also known as Croagh (pronounced “crow”) Patrick (that Catholic site of pilgrimage you can read about here).
Despite the rain and against our better judgement (several friends bailed), we headed for Westport, coming up with alternative ways to spend the day in case the forecast (clouds in the morning, rain in the afternoon) came true for the first time in our lives.
Alas, it didn’t.
Our plans to spend the day chilling in Westport (a cute, miniature version of Galway, as Becca described it) were washed away when the sun came out! Several of our friends got the train in from Ballyhaunis, we grabbed a taxi, and we were off!
Now, if you need a refresher on how successfully I failed at climbing Croagh Patrick two years ago, you can find it here.
It was with that failure under my belt that I was extra determined to make it up “the Reek” this time.
The Reek is 764 meters tall – for comparison, the St. Louis Arch is 192 meters.
The climb was much as I remembered it: painful, sweaty, chilly one moment, hot the next, and just plain hard as rocks. And you know what made all the difference? The boots!
The sun was in and out of the clouds all day, but it didn’t let out a drop of rain until we were about three quarters of the way down. Weather success!
I didn’t get a picture of it, but we did pass a man climbing the mountain barefoot. This is a tradition of climbing the mountain, especially on Reek Sunday. Brendan’s done it, but I wouldn’t. Not in a million years.
Unfortunately there aren’t many pictures from the last leg of the climb. That’s because the last bit is pretty steep, all loose rock and a little sand to make it just a bit more slippery. That means I was clinging to the rocks, not daring to stop or get the camera out.
I paused once, to demonstrate how not comfortable I was with how skinny the path was getting:
Then kept trucking until:
We turned around rather quickly, as we had a bus to catch. Ironically, the way down was more difficult than the way up. Going down is really difficult on the slipping rocks and hard on the toes. Not to mention terrifying. On the way up, you’re facing the mountain; on the way down, you’re facing the sky and the crazy scary drops all around you. Nothing to make you jump like the sound of loose rocks colliding as somebody behind you slips.
Needless to say, I survived. And when we got back to town and got on the bus from Westport to Galway, it was the same driver that had driven us out that morning.
“How was your day?” he asked (public transportation employees are excruciatingly friendly in Ireland).
“Good,” I said, and then, to explain away the sweat stains: “We climbed the mountain.”
“Ye climbed the Reek?” the old man in the first seat of the bus exclaimed.
“Wow! You lot are fit!” the bus driver agreed.
What a reception! That was enough to make me smile proudly and pretend that my feet, calves, thighs, knees and back were not aching.