David Mason in Fairhead in N.Ireland
Ireland; home to leprechauns, Guinness and more unclimbed rock than you can shake your stick at! A friend Ryan said he was heading over there a few months ago and I thought it would be a nice break; a chance to visit somewhere new and check out some bouldering of the rock variety!
We were lucky enough to get a bed at Casa Bell. The hospitality we received was of the highest quality; not only comfy living quarters, training facilities and guided tours of Fairhead but gerbils to entertain us as we sipped (downed) Jagermeister!
Now to the climbing... there seems to be a LOT of rock in Ireland, I only visited Fairhead; this was reckoned to be the area in best nick at the time. I climbed 3 days whilst there and was pretty impressed. Bouldering in Ireland is definitely not as popular as routes and this means there is a tonne of projects to climb. The boulders that have been established at Fairhead tend to be the cream of the crop; tall lines on super good rock. I would go as far to say that the few things I climbed would not be out of place in Fontainebleau! Quite a bold statement but in my eyes true. I would also say that only 5-10% of Fairhead has been developed; it will take effort but for the explorers out there the potential is endless. I was lucky enough to climb most of the existing blocs there and add a few delights to the area as well as being coaxed into abseiling off the top of Fairhead, quite a scary experience and needless to say I won’t be swapping foam for ropes anytime soon!
I have done relatively little development of boulders in my time climbing and so the opportunity to add a few things to the area was really special. I can see why people get such a buzz from doing a first ascent. Ricky was nice enough to show me a wall he had brushed last year; we gave it another clean and had a play but didn’t have enough pads to make it safe and so returned a couple of days to finish it off. Now being from the Peak when someone tells you about a project I never hold my breath. So when I saw what later became known as Homme Jomme I was pretty blown away! A 35° overhanging wall with just a few holds and a spicy, slightly technical top out! The next time we returned it was pretty humid; I Abed down and chalked the holds, we had six pads this time so the landing would be transformed into a big hug! I then proceeded to wait for it to cool a little, after 20 minutes I was bored of waiting and pulled on my boots. Holds brushed, hands chalked and even a tops off 4POWER moment, I pulled on. I think after the first move I knew I was in, I just felt good, although a foot pop at the top nearly ended it all I managed to stay on and proceed to the top. Probably only 7c but so good; a mixture of power and technical climbing!
On our last day we headed to try a problem called The Penitent Man Shall Pass (points for naming what film this is from)! This is probably the best line at Fairhead; a tall, slopey arête with Fontainebleau style holds and climbing, and of course a compulsory scary top section. After doing the stand, I decided to look at the project sit start. Now normally I don’t think it is necessary to add sit starts to tall lines but this is the obvious place to start this boulder. A good finger jug allows you to pull off the deck and do a big move to a slopey edge; from here a throw to a good hold puts you into the stand. The nice thing is that it adds a dynamic two move 7c into a technical arête climb; variety is the spice of life after all! I stuck the first move but managed to drop the crux of the stand, a few goes later I managed to do the move again, and sticking the crux of the stand I just had one more scary move to do, I switched off my brain and went for it, catching the penultimate hold with two fingers was luckily enough and I topped out! This is probably one of the best climbs I have ever done and is definitely a world class bloc, doing it first also adds a little for sure!
A perfect end to a really good trip and I will definitely be returning to explore a few other areas of Ireland’s bouldering. Big thanks to Ryan, Rob, Ricky and Magek for making everything nice and easy!
A few snaps of David Mason on a recent trip to Fairhead in N.Ireland
FA Homme Jomme 7c
FA The Pentient Man Shall Pass Sit Start 8a
FA The Pentient Man Shall Pass Sit Start 8a
The Pentient Man Shall Pass Stand 7c
The Spastic 7c