In 2019, our company offsite was to the beautiful Westport in County Mayo, Ireland. Along with some workshops and presentations mapping out the next twelve months, (lol at nobody mentioning bloody Covid) we try and sample the local hospitality. As such mornings can sometimes be a little fuzzy. Standard. This year, we wanted to try something different to shake off the cobwebs. So we decided it’d be a good idea to go for a hike up Croagh Patrick on Friday morning.
Planning and Preparation
Our thinking on undertaking this challenge, was two fold. Firstly our founders, Ian and Michelle, have been to Westport multiple times. (As an aside, do check out the wonderful Headford House if you’re looking for a break in that part of the world). They had heard great reports about walking Croagh Patrick from multiple locals.
Secondly, we thought going for a scenic stroll would be a great way to spend a few hours. It’d give everyone the chance to have a chat, and bond as a team, while taking in some lovely views that we hadn’t seen before.
We prepared for the weather (except Paul W who unbelievably got away with a denim jacket), and most of us had walking boots on. In the main though, if we’re being honest, we were pretty underprepared. We’d done a bit of research into the walk. We’d heard it was a 2 hour walk, and that pilgrims used to do it barefoot. So we figured 2 hours up, 1.5 hours back. Simple. We set off at 9.30am, and booked lunch in the pub at the bottom at 1.00pm.
Seasoned hill walkers are probably cringing reading that. It turns out, this is not how hill walking works out!
The OS advise that groups over 20 generally travel at 3km/h! And to add 10 minutes to your time for each 100m elevation. We didn’t know this information. By those calculations, at 14km and 760m we should have put at least 5 hours 30 mins aside to tackle things, rather than the rather ambitious 3hr 30 mins we did.
It turns out we have walkers of varying ability in our team at Regital. In the main these naturally migrated into sub-teams on the hillside (it felt like a mountain at the time) as people walked at differing paces. Although the plan was that we’d do it together, that quickly went out of the windswept window, when it became apparent we were just going up. And up. And up.
In terms of stamina and determination. We can all hold our heads high. Even the 20% of us who didn’t make it up the final summit, gave it a bloody good go. Hiking is not everyone’s bag. In particular a 760m hill can be a test for most people.
It does bring out the best (and not so much) in some people. You especially learn who are the motivators of the mountain (we’re calling it a mountain now), and keep those around them going.
Four seasons in a moment
Older readers may remember the 90s pop-ballard Four Seasons in One Day. I don’t know if Neil Finn was in Westport when he wrote this, but if he’d been up Croagh Patrick in October time, he’d know it happens much faster than this.
I know Brits are obsessed with the weather, but weather like this is worth obsessing over. In the space of 10 minutes it went from glorious Autumnal sunshine, to sideways rain bombing down at Monsoon levels, with wind so strong it nearly lifted our own caped crusader off his feet (yes Ian really is wearing a cape). Then back to beautiful sunshine.
That all said, we were amazingly lucky. The worst of the weather was early in the morning on the first mile or so of the trek. The bullet dodged by the denim jacket attire still can not be under-estimated. Although, ironically the denim was in the first group up and down, so maybe rainwear is overrated after all.
The summit is ahead even if you can’t see it
This is probably true of most mountains (it’s definitely a mountain now), but Croagh Patrick is bloody deceiving. This might be due to the fact that as we’ve mentioned our planning wasn’t perfect. When you’re just going up, and up, and up, there are multiple summits, or so you think.
It turns out the actual summit is up a steep incline of loose stones. It took an age to conquer, but conquer it we did. Those who made it up, completed a massive achievement. It was brutal. It was unforgiving. I doubt we’ll do it again. We’re glad we did.