It finally happened. I managed to convince people (well, it took zero convincing this time, the team was more motivated than I) and climb in Fair Head. It was my (and Tereza’s) first ever trip there – while for Jirka it was a return after 8 years of absence.
So there we were, yet again on epic adventure trail. We left on Friday and for a change spent a night at a with a roof over our head(rather than camping) in Ballymena’s Slemish Barn. It’s actually a really nice place at very reasonable price point (15GBP for a bed in a dorm room).
They have very good facilities, with basic breakfast provided (which is a nice touch – we didn’t expected it). The owner (Michael) is a very nice guy, and will accept Euro if you ask nicely.
The place is situated strategically close to Fair Head (40min drive via the coast road, I think it’d be faster via the other route), and allows for nice & early start in the morning. Obviously camping at the farm on Fri was also an option, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a warm bed.
And that’s what we’ve done. Got up ‘early’ on Sat & we were at Sean’s farm before 9, where we also bumped into Ambrose and his magic van.
We quickly moved towards the crag (it’s a 15 min walk through the farm, in fantastic setting) – as the forecast predicted rain at 1pm.
By 10am we were racked up at the bottom of our first victim, 2 pitch classic on Ballycastle Descent Gully East- Girona *** VS 5a (although the book we have says 4c, 4c) – I lead the first (apparently harder one), Jirka flew the second one.
Below – Jirka on Pitch 2
Jirka & I below.
Few drops of rain didn’t discourage us at all and we made our way to The Prow to find our next targets.
Not being over-enthusiastic about our ability to lead these long ‘hard for the grades’ routes we’ve settled on another classic, The Black Thief VS 4b .
It was such a nice route to lead. Nearly 30m of fantastic bridging and jamming. Gear everywhere, fantastic views – Fair Head at it’s finest!
I lead it, and then Tereza (who’s relatively new to the sport) – lead it on my pre-placed gear. She actually flew it, without looking back. I’d say – teach the girl how to place gear and she’d be leading HVS on her own in no time!
Jirka collected the gear after us, we abseiled and sent him for what turned out to be the last route of the day – The Fence, VS 4c.
He enjoyed every single move of this 24m high route. Tereza cleaned the gear 2nd and I went last to meet their smiling faces at the top of the wall.
We cleaned up and headed back to the farm to make some food and relax.
Once we pitch the tents and setup my precious Kelly Kettle, we got a nice surprise from Sean, the landowner who brought fresh supply of fire wood – for a nice pit-fire.
It was very nice of him. We had a friendly chat about the history of his land (he owns over 400 acres) and climbing in general in the area. He doesn’t climb himself but is very friendly and welcoming to all climbers – big (like his most recent famous guest – Alex Honnold) – and small – like us.
We sat by the fire and enjoyed the bottle of 12 year old anCnoc, talking about future plans, climbing, big bulls, small rabbits and other less important things.
The morning welcomed us with windy weather, sore hands and loud children (well these, from the tent nearby, were crying all night, so there wasn’t much sleep)…
Since it was Jirka’s last days in the country, we’ve decided to give up climbing for the day, and explore local touristy spots.
We stopped by in Ballycastle, to look at Fair Head from distance.
And the move further west. The hanging bridge and Giant’s Causeway are ok, but it’s nothing special after day like we had the day before. Although the massive waves made quite the impression.
Bushmills Distillery at the other hand it’s a different story.
Both of us being admirers of good whiskey couldn’t miss the chance to visit that place (it’s been there since 1608!).
We completed very interesting 40min tour around the factory (it’s operational 24/7, so there are strict no-photography rules). You get to walk (with a guide) around the production line, as he explains how this fine drink is made. At the end you get to exchange your ticket for a taster of their produce. Jirka actually ended up with 5 shots (since some of our visiting group didn’t drink whiskey, others were driving), while I picked up a bottle of their 12year old single malt reserve (available only at their factory shop, nowhere else!).
That concluded our short outing to The North. Drive back to Dublin was uneventful. It’s actually quite straight forward – motorway all the way down…
I hope we’ll be able to squeeze in one more trip before Jirka returns home…