Fair Head 2016
As I sit here writing this piece for Cork Climbing Club the rain pours down outside, the wind howling strong, a stark contrast from the beautiful weather we experienced at Fair Head during the June bank holiday weekend. The sun drenched the crag every day from Thursday to Monday with hardly a cloud in the sky, the 'typical weather in Ireland!!' joked locals and climbers from abroad.
It was truly t-shirt weather!! I even found myself trying to escape the sun at time, pff typical pasty Irish boy..
Fair Head is a huge expanse of rock that stretches across the coast of the Antrim coastline for over 5km. It is around 100 meters at its highest point and it boasts five star classics of all grades with a variety of different styles, from awkward stemming corner cracks to bold arete and face climbing. You name it, Fair Head's got it!
At a crag where it is not unusual to have the whole cliff to yourself, the numbers present at this years meet must have come as a real shock to the locals, people were even rumored to have cued up for routes, like WTF!!! I would never do such a thing!!! Climbers from as far as the US flocked to Sean the farmers campground to get a taste for the black basalt columns of Fair Head. Numbers reached as high as 500, a figure unimaginable for chief organizer of the event, Paul Swail, who started the meet 6 years ago. Hell, there were more VW transporter vans than you could shake a stick at! This is however a testament to Paul who even managed to get Alex Honnold, the American Rock-Star who is well known for his soloing in Yosemite, to visit and who put on an outstanding slideshow for a shed full of climbers, who seemed not to be deterred by the lovely aromas of slurry which must have coated the floors only days previous. Honnold took this chance to talk about the 'climbing ethics' in Ireland seeing as he put it, "Its not often that you get to talk to an entire country's climbing community at once!".
For me Fair Head is my favorite place to climb in Ireland. It had been a long time since I've been there last and the intimidating steep walls with cracks running from bottom to top never disappoint. The first abseil in you start to feel small, butterflies build in the pit of your stomach. However when you step on to the climb this all washes away as you move upward in a vertical dance enjoying move after move of impeccable climbing. When I first visited Fair Head at the age of 15 I remember looking up at The Wall of Prey, only climbing a year or two at this point, I was in complete awe wondering how anyone could possibly climb such a thing. Five years later stepping onto the climb it seemed to shrink down to something a lot more manageable. However it still held this mystique and although the climbing is never desperate I felt nervous at the prospect of falling, you never want to blow it on a route of such grandeur, steeped in history. Getting to the top was amazing and it brought a beaming smile to my face, what an amazing route, a route I've always had in the mind, some day I thought!
It doesn't stop here, however, the fire builds and you find yourself wanting more and more. Although its a long trip from Cork, a grueling 5 hours, the journey is always worth it, the climbing is simply world class…
To add to this, I even had the pleasure of hanging out and climbing with the DMM team who showed their class by cruising up some of the cliffs most classic lines. Climbers who you see in the magazines or on UKC, now you get to see the live performance. A truly inspirational group of people, extremely friendly but most importantly very STRONG. I'd like to thank Dave Ayton, the DMM crew and Damien O'Sullivan. Although I was in fact supposed to be the teams 'guide' to Irish Climbing, I am in fact just a punter who's done very little climbing in Ireland in the grand scheme of things, the real guides to Irish climbing were Damien and Dave, I was more of a tag along!! But nonetheless I had an amazing time, certainly my best trip to Fair Head as of yet.
Finally, the meet wouldn't be possible without the kindness and support of Sean McBride, who's land we cross to get to this spectacular cliff, Mountaineering Ireland and of course Paul Swail for organizing the event and the good weather!!
Onwards and Upwards, keep climbing up :)
David Cussen leading the third and final pitch of "Dark Forces", E3.