Posted on June 9, 2014
Walking along the top of Fairhead seven years ago I was amazed at how many climbers had turned up for the Fairhead meet…about 20 or so. Having only been to Fairhead a handful of times before this I had never seen any other climbers when I had been there climbing! The meet had been organised by some locals to introduce them to a neglected crag and hopefully clean up a few routes. It can be a daunting place to try and find your routes so it was useful bumping into the likes of Calvin Torrans who gave myself and Jonny some handy pointers at what routes to get on. We got ridiculously pumped on Aoife, stumbled around the boulders at the bottom trying to find Roaring Meg and delighted in the stunning climbing and positions on Girona and Fath mo Bhuartha….routes that only confirmed to me what a special place Fairhead was and what a privilege it was to have such a crag in our wee country.
White Lightening Ampitheatre
We were only there for a day as we were heading over to the Culdaff Climbfest in Donegal which arguably was much bigger and more popular at that stage. To say I was underwhelmed when I seen the climbing at Culdaff was an understatement!
Seven years on with my climbing horizons having been broadened by climbing further afield, Fairhead remains a very special place, probably the most special climbing place to me. Moving to Wales I was always wittering on about Fairhead and how great it was, people undoubtedly got a bit bored. I persisted and eventually got round to organising my own little Fairhead meet for a North Wales and Scottish contingent every May for a few years. I secretly delighted in the fact that everyone was blown away by Fairhead, the location, the climbing, the adventure.
The meet has become an established event in the Irish climbing calendar due to the superb effort put in by Paul Swail and the welcoming hospitality of Sean McBride, the local landowner, who allows us to climb on his cliffs.
Thursday evening and people started to drift into the campsite and I got chatting to Shea and Tony, both newcomers to the head. We went for a wander up to the crag and in amongst excited chat I pointed out various routes and ab points. We arrived at the top of the Prow and I watched as they got their first view of the mighty Rathlin Wall. I thought back to when I first seen that view and the thoughts and feelings I had…awe, trepidation, insignificance and unbelievable psyche…I could tell they were the same as the guys were experiencing now.
Three days of great weather, great banter and great climbing were had over the weekend with the highlight being John‘s humourous chat on the Saturday evening to a packed out barn. Having climbed a substantial amount of the classic routes I found myself getting on the less travelled but equally good routes. This inevitably means climbing some dirt. I spent a day brushing Maiden Voyage only to be stopped on the lead due to it still being too dirty. I watched nervously as Nick tentatively made his way up the dirty second pitch of Waist Deep in Alligators (this is a very serious pitch in a dirty state…the top pitch is superb!) and got fully engrossed in the muck and worms on The Icarus Gun as Tim and I turned a 1 pitch route into a 3 pitch adventure. With many more dirty lines to be climbed there are more than enough routes to last a lifetime!
Sitting at the top of White Lightning Ampitheatre after the epic cleaning ascent of The Icarus Gun with Tim we watched Nick on Hallowe’en Arete as the setting sun lit up Nick and the arete as clouds swirled around behind. It was a perfect scene to finish a perfect weekend.
John ‘I’ve already got a million photos in the new guidebook’ McCune
Belay banter on Swails new route ‘Full of Energy, Ready to Party’
Sophie Whyte following on the superb Face Value
Lee Roberts on the 3rd ascent of Swails new route..he had a slightly more traumatic time as the holds started to come off!
Lee and Tim in spectacular evening light on The Promised Land
Nick and Lee on the amazing Hallowe’en Arete
Sunset over Rathlin Island