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Fairhead fun in the sun

Date: Aug 11 2012
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
As I remarked to someone recently on email: "Fairhead is not for the faint hearted". This opinion was confirmed again on Saturday when I hung my ass over the edge of that scary abseil on the Prow, double and triple checking my gear and trying to hide my nervousness from the assembled crowd. PJ, Sandra, George and myself had arranged a noon rendevous but the good weather had brought others out in droves with Mike and Guiomar unexpectedly turning up too.

Myself and Fairhead can't be mentioned in the same breath without "Good Morning Judge" being mentioned, having dodged the crux the one time I tried to lead it,  and so it was that I took some ribbing about whether I'd be tackling that particular HVS 5a today. "Let's see..." I replied, opting for Curlew instead, a fine VS 4c that Alfie and George were just topping out on as we arrived. If that went well then maybe the Judge would get a go. In all the banter I went over the edge without a rope (again!) and had to rely on PJ bringing our 2 ropes down, shaking her head in amusement as I'd had the temerity to ask "Are ye coming or what?" just as I stepped out. I also found that my ab rope was a few feet too short and had to climb down the last bit, not a good start to the day's activities. George and Alfie re-jigged it and then PJ and I were ready to go.

It was a nervous start and I laced the line with gear as I tried to work out all the moves. Unlike your average Culdaff VS with a one-move crux main course and a Severe-ish starter and dessert, this route skipped the starters, served tough gristle for main and called you a wimp for even thinking of a pudding. 20 minutes in and I looked down thinking, "Jeez is that all the far I've come?!" I had to ponder every move, and there were some cracking ones, including a layback near the start. The crux was eventually pushed through in a hurry as I daren't stop moving, happily placing a large friend above it. I finally got a good rest on the big block but the last section wasn't letting me off and it was with tired limbs that I topped out, maybe 1.5 hours after I'd started. It was a battling rather than balletic display from me, but it felt like proper rock climbing, scary, puzzling and strenuous and at the upper limits of my current ability. The fact that it had never eased up only added to the sense of achievement. PJ found it just as demanding but had a well satisfied glow by the end, despite my twisting rope work not giving her as tight a rope as she'd have liked.

The day was hotting up nicely and there were a few red faces on the other routes as Alfie, George and Sandra did The Fence VS 4c, followed by Revival HVS 5a and Railroad E1 5b. Gerry, Mike and John were finishing Contractions VS 5a, 4a at the same time as we were finishing Curlew and then were off doing other stuff after lunch. Mike and Guiomar alternately led The Embankment E2 5c and The Fence VS 4c then finished on GBH E3 6a. Well I say "finished", the route threw Mike off 4 times at the crux before a rope burn during the fall meant he stepped right and exited via The Black Thief VS 4b. 

Anyway, after a bite of lunch and a long cool drink to sort out the dry mouth (part heat, part fear) PJ and I decided to try Driodar na hAille HS, Gerry giving us both the correct translation (Dregs of the Cliff) and pronounciation (Dridger na Holla). The Judge would have to wait for another day. We took a while finding the route, then I severely doubted we were on the right line as I found the start impossibly hard. I'm ashamed to say I only finally reached the first ledge through a series of siege tactics, pulling up, placing a high bit of gear, hanging on it, repeat and rinse. PJ found an easier way up it later, starting a bit more to the left towards Bramble S, but I was quite tired from then on. Near the top I found myself ready to peel and desperately fired the entire elbow into the crack, taking all the weight off my poor forearms. It was an unhappy finish, a poor C- grade of climbing style, "can do better" in the headmaster's comments section.

It was late in the day by then, so we set up tents in Sean the farmer's field and then scooted into Ballycastle for provisions and a couple of pints of cider and some of the excellent Guinness (apparently it's all in the even cellar temperature) in the House of O'Donnell, where we met Josie from Gartan. Mike and Guio were heading home but George, Sandra, PJ and I returned to the tents for a few more tired beers round the firelog.

We woke next day stiff-limbed to a man and poor Sandra had the added bonus of an excruciating neck pain from a fall sustained on Fireball. The weather was windy and damp so we headed to the wee cafe down the round for breakfast, where Josie reported rain at the head. Undeterred George went off to the small crag to shunt a few lines and discovered a potential new route worth cleaning.

We 3 took a detour round the north coast to show Sandra the sights, stopping at Portbradden for a walk along White Park Bay and Portstewart for some Morelli's ice cream, and lamenting the fact that Carrick-a-rede, Giant's Causeway and Mussenden Temple are all an extortionate price for something that used to be free when we were kids. We drove the length of Downhill / Benone, which is the best way to see the beach on a windy day.

Anyone know about the right-of-way at the Giant's Causeway? £8.50 is such a rip off!

13 Aug 2012

Good day out then. Free to go to the rocks or walk along the cliff. The cost is to park or go into the centre. Free to walk to the rope bridge but you get ripped off if you want to cross it. Had Finn made the causeway when you were a youth? (I know that I am not really one to talk!)

14 Aug 2012

I think you'd have to park in Bushmills and walk out there because they have all the parking space sewn up. A good day out nonetheless. The aching limbs have recovered from Fairhead a day or two later and the skinned elbows and shins are slowly healing. :)

14 Aug 2012

THE ALFIE TOURIST BOARD Park in Portballintrae, walk across the beach to Runkerry and hence to the causeway OR park at Dunseverick and go to the Causeway via the cliff top path

Photo of Route