In the fifth century, St. Patrick reputedly fasted for fourty days on the summit of what is now known as Croagh Patrick and built a church there. He then, reputedly (pretty good reputation to have survived so long), threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain, knocking the she-demon Corra from the sky and banishing all the snakes from Ireland. (It's true, really, Wikipedia says so!)
If only someone had brought poor ol' Paddy a cheeseburger while he was up there, there might still be cute little snakes in Ireland.
On "Reek Sunday" the last Sunday in July every year, over 15,000 pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick. But on the last Sunday in April it wasn't quite so crowded. The weather was lovely, for Ireland... which is to say it was dry. I won't mention the cold temperatures or the wind that was so strong it almost blew us off the mountain... actually, I will mention the wind... while there were some steep parts of the hill to contend with, the wind was actually the biggest problem, both on the way up and descending. We had plenty of rest on the way up because as the already strong wind gusted even stronger, it picked up sand and lashed us with it so badly that we had to stop and protect our exposed skin from it. Frequently. I'm still picking sand out of various places on my body two days later! On the way down, it took my Tilley hat right off my head, despite the straps that have never failed me in wind before. That hat has been around the world with me in the last 10 years, and I would have chased it right off the side of the mountain, but fortunately someone further down the trail saw it blow past them and was able to catch it and place it under a rock for me to recover. But enough about the wind and my hat, there's a cheeseburger to talk about...
Four of us set off from the carpark at the trailhead to follow the path that thousands have taken before. We took a leisurely pace, stopping frequently on the first part of the trail to enjoy the views of the water and islands behind us (and later on trail to avoid the wind).
About halfway up there were a couple of ambulance medics stationed on the hill. I chatted with them and learned while they were the only team on the hill on this day, on Reek Sunday there would be 12 teams of medics on the lower half of the hill and Mountain Rescue on the top half, with a helicopter on stand-by. The most common injuries expected were foot injuries, not only the sprained ankles you'd expect from a bunch of inexperienced hikers wearing inappropriate footwear, but also cuts and lacerations on the feet because many of the piligrims climb the hill barefooted.
At the top of the hill is a chapel that was built in 1905, along with a statue, toilet blocks, and several collection boxes for money. And on a clear day like we had, some great views of the sea and mountains.
The night before the hike I picked up a couple of cheeseburgers from Supermac's, a chain of fast-food restaurants that is very popular with the post-drinking crowds. The burgers had been chilled in the fridge overnight, then crushed gently in my pack while it was in the car, but the mayo-based sauce provided enough moisture to the now cardboard-like meat patty that it was actually reasonably easy to consume. Eleanor, who initiated the call to The Reek, got to "enjoy" the second cheeseburger with me, and will hopefully become a regular Irish contributor to the summit cheeseburger mission.
And that was how the first summit cheeseburger in Ireland was consumed!