Sunday, April 29, 2007

Colm Toibin and Croagh Patrick

I have read a few books by Colm Toibin, and have just discovered he had some similar experiences to me at Croagh Patrick. (Read here for my account.)

Some quotes from Ch4, The Magic Mountain, in "The Sign of the Cross" by Toibin:

"Now we turned and trudged on, the terrain becoming more and more difficult."

"Nothing had prepared me for the last part of the climb. The rise was very sheer and there was nothing to hold onto. At every step I sank into a bank of large slippery stones. I moved slowly on my hands and knees in the wind and the driving rain."

I guess I was lucky here: the horrendous wind and wetting rain started while I was on my way down! It then became a real effort to stay standing and not be blown over. On one occasion I slipped, and was then rolled around on the ground by the wind. Fortunately, apart from a bruised elbow, I wasn't injured, much to the relief of the guy just above me on the track who yelled "I'm coming!" but who then saw me get up on my own.

"Everybody concentrated on each step, and on making sure not to fall and knock other people over. We clambered forward. It was impossible to see how close the summit was. At times progress seemed impossible; there was no foothold, and if you moved, you displaced rocks and stones, and there was still no foothold. Men and women walked down as best they could, pushing the staff into the ground ahead of them, letting it sink in between the stones, then sliding gingerly down. If they caught your eye, they smiled encouragement. People kept telling you that you would reach the summit soon.
When I got there, I was exhausted and exhilarated."

I know what he means! In my own account I wrote:

There was quite a celebratory feel at the top, and a real feeling of camaraderie amongst those sheltering by the wall of the oratory. It is not a 'long' climb, but the last section is very steep, and the rocky surface is difficult to maintain your footing on. You cannot see the top and have no idea how much further you have to climb, until suddenly, you are on the summit. I think we all felt that the hardest work was done! (We were all sooooo wrong!)

Croagh Patrick is about 762m high. That did not seem like very much. But the steepness of the last section, the nature of the small rocks you had to climb on nearer the top,
the fact you could not see the summit, the wind and slippery rocks on the way down, all made for quite a hard climb. I reached the bottom with a sense of relief and achievement!

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