A Typical Day at Fairhead

For today’s music, I graciously take inspiration from the ever absent (like various other role-models in my life) Mr Thomas Prebble.

Prebs, the gracious man he is, had long promised Toby Vye a trip to Fairhead and was finally to come good on said promise.  The psych train had begun to gain some speed, and Tom soon gathered a company together, following the well proven equation, More People = More Banter.  The dream team formed; Toby “Thick-fingers” Vye (the initiator), Pete “Bae” Lockhart (the banter), Alex “Catwoman” McCalman (the bearded one, for beard diversity), Thomas “Side-Hoe” Prebble (the brains….sort of), Jamie “Twerkwell” Roberts (the psyche) and M, Conor “Gibbon” Cadden (the crack climbing punter).  And so we began our entirely typical Fairhead trip.

A typical trad trip to Fairhead has 6 key elements:
-Stop on the way for food.
-Be scared by the sheer scale of the place.
-Run out of quickdraws.
-Be shit at crack climbing (me specific).
-Watch someone else be far better at crack climbing (me specific).
-Be shattered at the end of the day.

So after awakening on the futon in Pete and Prebs’ house, which at this point I have a strong relationship with, coffee was made and drunk as the various parties slowly arrived or awoke and made way to the living room.  Soon, we all piled into two cars and began the journey North bound.  After leaving Belfast proper, we found ourselves on the motorway and quickly stopped in for a cheeky Gregs for breakfast and to stock up on food for the day.  Stop on the way for food [x].  The drive proved to be quite pleasant, with various shit being talked of, and may a tune (pronounced “chooooone”) being played, and we arrived safely at the carpark.  We all broke into groups and divided ropes between the pairs.  For a while now, I have taken a liking to one of the club ropes (I have used it for about 2 months consistently, re-signing it out for top roping the hard things, as well as general use) and as a result it has seen its fair share of use on Mournes granite, a tough test to be sure.  This has left the rope not far from my facial hair situation, a bit fluffy.  At the sight of this Pete lost all confidence in me as a gear user, and broke into tears.  After a brief period of swearing at me, I was forgiven (I hope) and we set off towards the crag.

At the abseil we paired up and looked to different spots.  Alex and Pete went off to commit buggery (whether to each other or the rock I’m not sure) upon Girona.  I did not see these two for the rest of the day, as they spent most of it on a different part of the crag, and have no first hand experience of what they did.  However I do understand they had resounding success on several routes and had a class time all around.  Jamie and I, and Toby and Tom abseiled in to Fireball and Midnight Cruiser.  It was at the top of the abseil that my stomach dropped, remembering how scary Fairhead is, with the Prow being the smaller of the faces, but still an imposing and impressive piece of cliff.  Be scared by the sheer scale of the place [x].  As our two routes were so close, while Jamie and Prebs lead on, Toby and I had a fantastic bit of banter during the belay.  Subjects discussed included our inability to climb the long routes of Fairhead, me due to a pedigree of short Mournes routes, and He with much experience doing bouldering and short trad routes.  We also noted that I could not see the difference between his halfs, as I am a genetically inferior man, being Red-Green colourblind (not how it sounds, its very confusing to explain so I shant bother).  Our partners were gracious enough to climb at such a speed that Toby and I were able to continue our chat all the way up the routes, and offer each other much needed encouragement at various hard sections.  This was the most pleasant of all my experiences at Fairhead to date.

After another quick abseil, I stood at the bottom of Thunderhips, a stunning looking off-width climb.  I managed to pass the first 1/3 rather easily, then moved on to the middle 1/3.  This section looks like pure choss, though probably sound, I didn’t trust anything.  While staying off as much as possible a random man began to abseil down beside me, prompting and giving encouragement as he went, and reassuring me of the rock not tumbling down.  Thankfully all this held solid, and I sighed relieved to place some solid gear in the top off-width after a big runout.  I began the struggle with the rock in earnest, solid gear low down.  Soon I began to run low on footholds, realising the name comes from the amount of smearing and bridging on the crux.  Placing the amazing tricam borrowed from Toby (many thanks) I realised I had very few quickdraws left for more gear.  Run out of quickdraws [x].  Hoisting up on a solid jam I desperately placed cams, all big and borrowed from Prebs (also many thanks).  I could no longer think of advantageous movements to make, “no more in the tank” I thought, and shouted for Jamie to take.  Be shit at crack climbing (me specific) [x].  After assessing the moves, I made some progress while shuffling cams along with me.  Again I encountered problems, namely: my ankle got stuck in the off-width, so again I shouted take, lest I take a proper fall for the reasons of I was scared and that if I did fall, my ankle would not have come with me.  After much struggling, and being offered a top rope by the abseil man, which I had enough dignity to decline, I grunted my way over the top to make and anchor.  I may have absolutely dogged the route, but I didn’t get a rescue, and I didn’t have to aid climb….just about.

After this, Jamie followed with disgustingly little trouble with the off-width.  We then regrouped at the abseil to eat food, where many a comment was passed along the lines of “we heard you from a mile away” and “the other people here were quite amused”.  During this time it was also noted that Toby had been pumped for the last 5 mins…after the route was over, and was greatly enjoying this masochistic outing which tested his endurance, and was so far living through the experience.  An adventurous Jamie then forced us to finish lunch and abseil down, for a good old crack at GBH, a hard E3 6a, which he had set sights on after seconding Prebble on before.  During the preparations, we noted the finer points of on-siting routes.  Among many other conditions, things the nature of “if you climb with your eyes open, you blow the on-site” and “if you even know the route exists and is possible, you blow the on-site” were often stated, due to our super strong ethics policy.  But after running out of shit to say, Jamie headed up GBH, placing good gear below the crux.  He used skill and power to navigate it, as I shat myself just watching, praying he didn’t fall.  Yet yay and verily, he doth make it to the anchor with great success and all parties were relieved and elated.  I began my second of the route, enjoying the moves up till the crux, all gear within reach removed, I began the effort, and half way through it fell.  Watch someone else be far better at crack climbing (me specific) [x].  Soon I was flailing wildly, with my poor technique for cracks, accumulating more and more respect for Jamie’s effort, even though I had already had quite a lot.

A final few moves and I was at the top, bowing to the man that is Jamie, and we regrouped with other parties to be updated as to events they had suffered.  As could be gathered, all parties had much success, and so we departed for Ballycastle for chips.  It was while here that I found the chip shop does chips on tap, and that Pete’s part time job is being a chip-themed rent boy.  Chat-up lines included “Want some battered sausage?”, “That’s a nice vagina, can I fillet?” and “Can I finger your butty?”.  After a poor evening, where business for Pete was slow, we headed back to Belfast where we sorted gear, and headed to the pub for well-earned alcoholic beverages.

Be shattered at the end of the day [x].

A typical day at Fairhead to be sure.