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Climbfest 2007 - My Story

Date: 5th, 6th and 7th May 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

I arrived in Culdaff slightly later than expected (what's new?) around 11am on Saturday morning. McGrory's was empty so I headed off to the Bunagee campsite to see groups of climbers swarming over the headland towards Dunowen and Brazil Rock, some already sporting the ClimbFest 2007 t-shirts. There was some confusion as to where registration and the beginner stuff was taking place and I pointed a few people towards Dunmore Head, then headed there myself, leaving our Milo and the boys to set up camp and join me later.

Dunmore was swarming and Margaret was dealing with a long queue of people looking for the topo guide and t-shirts. The guides were excellent by the way, well laid out and with clear photos of each crag. Geoff was already taking kids up SRS Slabs and I think Columba was on Bluebell. I belayed 3 or 4 people up Cheatin' Bitch, including a fella Michael who I'd met at the campsite and who professed to be a complete novice. I chatted away to a fella from Queen's who'd had the misfortune of leading Orange Blossom and was trapped belaying climbers up this popular route. The same thing happened to a Spanish girl last year. Anyway yer man just gave up after about the 8th person and pulled his rope up.

I headed off to help Geoff out on the slab. I belayed the kids and beginners up while Geoff abseiled them down. We had a nice wee system going, even if there was a queue for the abseil rope at times. By early afternoon we must have belayed a couple of dozen climbers, with the more enthusiastic kids going up twice or more, some of them whooping with delight when they reached the top. One little girl couldn't have been more than 5, weighed about the same as a bag of sugar and must have smeared the whole route. She got a deserved round of applause when she topped out. :)

During a break for lunch I bumped into a few more familiar faces from the club, a few Ozone regulars and loads of people from Queen's. As I munched I shouted advice to someone on Master of Puppets (a route I've never led and only seconded twice), then I led Valli up a variation of Tina's Crack, getting in the way of the girl seconding Puppets and someone else top-roping Diversion. What manners!

Back at SRS Slabs I showed a few people how to abseil with a prussik protector, then took Valli and Michael over to February Freeze Up, showing Michael how to belay. At the top we listened to Valli enthuse about the newly cleaned Black Perceptions (S) so took the walk over the headland to find Andrew Tees doing his first lead on it with Alan below. A very enjoyable route but that big block in the middle gives you the willies, leaning way out like that.

Then it was back to the campsite for the usual burnt sausages, burgers and beer. The rain was threatening to dump on us but only managed the odd spit and we gathered in a hollow near the shore for the little fire and Valli's pyrotechnics. I had to get close to the action and had the privilege of shouting at everyone to douse their lights, then lighting up the burning skeleton climber. He looked awesome and the accompanying fireworks were thrilling, much lower and close up than the things you see in Derry at Hallowe'en.

I put myself to bed early (not like me) in anticipation of a day's climbing on Sunday. (Swiss) Tony and I had mentioned doing Miss Conceptions over a beer and whiskey the night before but he'd promised the wife Jenny something different in the interim so I took Noirin over to Dunmore for her first outdoor climb on, you've guessed it, SRS Slabs. She did a bit of an Elvis in the middle but got on with it and wasn't averse to doing it again once she'd gained the top. A good sign. Some more beginners turned up and I had visions of several hours of the same so after 6 or so I pulled up and dragged Tony over to BeanBob for some proper climbing.

"Tony", said I, "I'm a leet climber and I would like to show off my prowess on this VS 4c, the hardest thing I'll have ever led". "Tony", he said (for we share the same forename), "I'll take a picture of your brown trousers with my Canon SLR 9 megapixel digital camera for the world to see your fear." "Fear schmeer!", I said shaking my fist down at him as I topped out. Exhiliarating! Tony is a little shorter than me and I kept shouting moves down to him that he couldn't reach but he got there no problem, looking like a Welsh miner or the YMCA builder in his blue helmet.

Buzzing from that effort I scanned around for a partner to get on something else and could only see beginners. George and Pete were on 10CC and I was considering following them up this E1 (brave or what) when Sean came bouldering round the corner. We'd climbed the horrible HS in the wet at Cruit. "Sean", said I, "I did 4 Severes yesterday and they didn't scare me like the VS I did today, so do you fancy another oul VS?". "Sure I've forearms like Popeye", he said, "And Grecian is me favourite route. Let's do it!". So I led this VS 4c, something I've always wanted to since first seconding it years ago with Phil Magill (where is he now?). Sean had led GG before and scampered up it.

I was really stoked now and Sean and I were ready for more but the rain came in pretty hard. The sky was wholly black, the wind had never really let up so I packed up and got Tony to drop me off at the beach pub to meet up with the rest of the clan. A few pints later we were back at the campsite to find Milo's big circus tent collapsed and the other tent loaded with wet gear. As Milo was heading home anyway we managed to salvage enough dry stuff for another night's stay. Thanks to everyone who saved our stuff! At McGrory's I sounded off about my two VS 4c leads to anyone who'd listen, had a laugh with Norin, Michelle, Tony and Jenny, drank too much to drive back and headed off into the night for the walk back to the campsite. We'd hardly crossed the bridge when a car stopped to offer us a lift. Brilliant timing and thanks stranger. There was a tiddling little fire going near the mess tent so we gathered round and did our best to keep it and the craic going till 3am, with Niall and co. plus a bunch of other comers and goers.

Monday was a washout so we just upped sticks and left. Donna and Martin gave me a lift back to the car and I watched Swiss Tony driving some people out of the pot holed slope next to the gate. I believe he towed some people out of a ditch with his V6 4x4 earlier too.

A grand weekend, just a pity about the weather. Until this weekend the hardest thing I'd led was VS 4b (Black Thief) so I'm slowly moving up the grades. That HVS lead is still on the cards.

Photo of Route