BRISBANE’S mountaineering priest Fr Morgan Batt has reached a new pinnacle after climbing Bulgaria’s highest peak, Musala.
As part of a unique mission, Fr Batt claims to be the first Australian and the first priest to have climbed and celebrated Mass on the highest mountain of every core country of Europe.
“I conceived of the idea of climbing the highest peak of every country and major territory in the world about 20 years ago,” Fr Batt said.
“My list is 259 peaks. So far I have climbed 217 of those.
“It keeps me fit, active and very alive. It helps focus my mind and soul and gives me ample time with God in His creation. I actually conceive many ministry ideas while climbing.”
Fr Batt completed his latest challenge when he scaled Musala, the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula at 2925m on July 5.
It took nine hours up and back – including part of the return trip by chairlift.
“The mountain has a ridge to the summit that looks impossible but as you get closer it becomes obvious and relatively easy.
“I meet three young Swiss guys on the summit and we got chatting.
“I told them that I was a priest and just climbed all of Europe’s peaks.
“We talked about God and climbing.
“One even said that today I changed his negative attitude toward the Church. The mission always goes on.”
Fr Batt’s love of hiking and mountains began on a family holiday to Thredbo when he climbed Mt Kosciusko.
“It just captured my imagination,” he said.
“The beauty and majesty of mountains is told and retold endlessly in the scriptures.
“Many priests, bishops, monks, popes and saints climbed mountains. I’m part of that heritage.”
Fr Batt has already climbed the highest peak of every country in the Caribbean.
Adding the highest of Europe’s mountains is a further milestone.
There are some really tough peaks on that list – Mt Elbrus in Russia – and Fr Batt has many adventurous and memorable tales about preparing and reaching those mountains including driving a snowmobile for 250km in the Arctic wilderness of Svalbard, having a coffee in San Marino, a scary experience with ropes on Mont Blanc, endless rocks in Montenegro, savage Russian sheep dogs in Macedonia, chocolate in Belgium, the mists of Ireland, England and Wales, and setting off from the birth town of St Mary MacKillop’s mum to climb the highest peak in Scotland.
While climbing is a hobby, Fr Batt said the reaction of other climbers and people when he says he was a priest were priceless.
At charity events and through his ministry as director of Vocation Brisbane, thousands of people have listened to Fr Batt’s stories of adventure and loved them.
“I believe the climb is as much about God’s mission and evangelisation as other missions,” he said.
Fr Batt said he sometimes was asked how he could afford to pursue his climbing passion.
“That is a story in itself,” he said.
“Many years ago three guys said they would sponsor me. And along with some generous climbing companies and others I have managed to climb.
“I give thanks to God for them, my family and friends who all worry about and pray for me.
“To date my mountain story book has raised over $20,000 for the vocations ministry. And maybe another book is in the making.”
Fr Batt is on long service leave and will take up a new appointment as parish priest of Burleigh Heads in November.