Have you ever found yourself in a situation wondering what on earth you were thinking? When your mental and physical stamina were tested like never before? And you wondered if you were going to make it through?
I had this moment (well this few hours) just last week, when I naively decided to climb Croagh Patrick by myself in extreme weather conditions.
This week’s story gives you all the details of how this crazy situation came about and what I learnt from the experience.
On a recent visit to Galway, I was staying with a friend who lived in the area. I hadn’t made specific plans for the rest of my trip through Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland etc. so I was open to ideas. I figured a local would have a great idea of what to do so I asked and he suggested a number of places to visit, with the first stop being Westport to climb Croagh Patrick.
Knowing absolutely nothing about the hike, I decided I would do it anyway so off I went to Westport and booked a room at the base of Croagh Patrick so I’d be ready to climb it the next day.
Post-hike, I decided to read up on Croagh Patrick to get a better idea of what I had just done. Here’s the details just for your information:
Also known as The Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick is considered the most holy mountain in Ireland. It’s located in Murrisk, a small village 8km outside of Westport, a small town along the west of Ireland. It attracts around 1 million pilgrims each year from all over the world, including hill climbers, historians, archaeologists and nature lovers (Ref). The hike typically includes spectacular views of the countryside (although this view was blocked fog most of my way up).
So anyway, I woke up last Wednesday morning (the day I had set aside to do the hike) to dark overcast skies and regular intermittent rain. I questioned my dedication to doing the hike but I couldn’t justify staying another day or two because the weather forecast was even worse for the next couple of days. As a result I decided to suck it up and do it anyway because, how hard could it be right?
I procrastinated for a while by calling a couple of friends from home (for hour long chats mind you).
I finally got myself dressed and headed to the hostel reception where I told the hostel owner (the sweetest lady and a mum of three daughters) that I was heading on the hike. She looked a little surprised that I was still going to do it despite the weather, but she checked I had all the essentials (warm clothes, food and water) and directed me to take a stick along to help me through the hike. I figured this was an added bonus to make it a little easier, but I was yet to find out how incredibly essential this stick would be.
I ventured out feeling confident and ready-to-go, filled with a spirit of adventure. The hike was rocky and a little slippery at the start, but nothing I didn’t think I could handle.
I turned around early in the journey to see if there was anyone else around. To my excitement, I noticed a lovely looking young couple about 300 metres behind me. This gave me assurance that I wasn’t totally crazy. I’d regularly take a look around to check they were still coming and sure enough they were there, although I will admit that she did seem to be struggling a little.
About a quarter of the way only my journey I stopped to grab a picture and attempt to shelter myself from the wind while I caught my breath. I waited around a few minutes, and waited a few more before I finally realised they weren’t coming anymore. While a little concerned I figured I might as well continue on, no point turning back now right?
The hike got steeper and more slippery. The air was bitter cold and the gusts of winds were strong enough to practically bowl me over.
A variety of swear words passed through my lips a number of times (oops)… Lucky I was the only one up there (I guess).
My sense of excitement and adventure quickly wore off when I realised my two layers of pants were soaking wet and I definitely didn’t have enough clothing to keep warm. Better yet, I started noticing blisters on my feet… and I wasn’t even half way up.
My stamina and never give up attitude came through and I was determined to make it to the end. There were a number of times I was tempted to turn around and head back to my warm room but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do my absolute best.
The worst part was that I couldn’t tell how far I was away from the top… I just knew I hadn’t made it yet.
I stopped time and time again to catch my breath, take a drink of water and have a snack. The worst part was that my water was an off-yellow colour so I was scared to drink too much in case it wasn’t drinkable.
A full two-hours after starting the hike, I finally reached what I soon realised was the top. A massive white church and a sign saying “Croagh Patrick – Ireland’s Holy Mountain”.
It’s hard to describe the wave of relief that came over me at this point. It was honestly the best sense of achievement I’ve ever felt.
It took another hour and a half to hike down but after slipping over multiple times in the loose rocks, I finally made it back to my hostel.
As soon as I got my priorities in order (wet clothes off and a warm bath) I sent the following message to my friend Tony:
“Omg were you trying to kill me?”
I have asked myself a couple of times if I would’ve done the hike if I fully knew what it was going to be like. My answer was no, probably not. Well absolutely not.
But when I’ve asked myself if I’m glad I did it, I can confidently say yes, absolutely yes. I honestly feel that, while tough, the experience pushed my limits and has taken my physical and mental ability to a new level. I have a greater level of confidence in myself and what I can do if I put my mind to it. Maybe ignorance and naivety were key to getting started in this case, but it was both mental and physical stamina that got me through to the end.
So to conclude this story, here’s my wrap up.
Life lesson learnt: Challenge yourself and push your limits, the sense of achievement is one of the best feelings in the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing such an insane hike in crazy weather, but it could mean trying something new, talking to a stranger or going somewhere you’ve never been before.
To me, this whole experience was about stretching myself physically and mentally, even though I didn’t realise this is what I was doing from the start. I would have to say it’s the toughest thing I’ve done both physically and mentally, but I’m so glad I did it and I can proudly share my experience with you.
I should also note that while Croagh Patrick was probably an enjoyable and beautiful hike on a nice day, the insane weather was what made it incredibly difficult.
My challenge to you is to find one thing to do that will challenge you in some way… this could be something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage to do, or something you’ve never considered doing but would like to try.
I would love to hear your experiences so feel free to comment below or contact me directly.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the story of my adventure.
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Until next time,