Christmas Day mountain climb holds special significance for one

December 23, 2013

The annual Christmas morning climb of Camlough Mountain has become something of a tradition in the village, with every year more and more locals making the arduous journey to the summit.

Now in its fifth year, the climb was initiated to highlight the plight of those from the area who are unable to be home for Christmas.  Primarily the issue of the Undocumented Irish was at the forefront of the minds of those taking part, however now – although no less important – the event has reached out to many who, for whatever reason, are remembering loved ones who are not at home for Christmas.

Traditionally, in a poignant and symbolic gesture when reaching the summit, participants raise a glass to toast those far from home.  Photos of the occasion posted on Facebook are a welcome sight for those from the area living abroad. Indeed it is the highlight of the day for many living in Australia, the United States and other countries – a glimpse of home on Christmas Day.

This year, the climb will take on a new perspective for one of the main organisers.  Pat McGinn was the brainpower behind the event when it began in 2008.  Without fail, every Christmas morning since then he has reached the summit of Camlough mountain and saluted absent friends.

Although having suffered ill health in recent months, and despite still being in a period of recuperation, Pat has resolved to be on top of the mountain this Christmas Day.

“One way or another, I’ll be there,” he vowed, as he spoke to The Examiner about the significance of the climb and why, particularly this year, it is so important to him.

“Christmas morning for many can be an emotional time, particularly when there are no young ones around and you have family living far from home.  I know what it is like to be away on a Christmas Day myself,” he said

“For people taking part, it’s a nice start to Christmas morning.  We are conscious too that people living away from home, particularly the young ones, love to see the photos.  We take coffee and mince pies, and I usually give people a wee hot toddy.  If they’re looking in Australia and America at photos of us up the mountain, it gets them through the day.

“It means more to me this year.  With the journey my own family have taken with my illness, and the toll it has taken on them all, I’ve become aware now of what it is to be sick.  I can remember feeling very low and fed up at times. But with the support of people, I started looking to the future and setting out small goals for myself,” Pat recalls.

“One thing I wanted to do was to get back to a football match – which I did last Sunday.  And I also said, ‘I’ll be up the mountain’.   I’m wise enough to know I still have to take it easy but it’s something that I’m going to do.  It’s special for me.  It’ll mean a lot to me going up that mountain.  I am fortunate because there are other people who started this journey with me and they’ll not be climbing a mountain on Christmas Day.”

Many of his fellow climbers have vowed to help Pat achieve his wish, jokingly pledging to carry him on their backs if need be.  Pat hopes this won’t be necessary but, nevertheless, is appreciative of the offer.

“I’ll be there.  I’ll finish her,” he quipped.

The annual Camlough Mountain Climb sets off from Doyle’s corner in the village at 10.00am.  Everyone is welcome to join in with the promise that you’ll be home in time for the turkey!