Words and pics by John Mallon.
“Just watch me here dude, I might
Shit........ I just fell, “are you ok”
“I’m alright, might need new underwear though , are you sure this is a VS ?
“Are you sure this is a VS, ha ha”, not the first time i’d utter these words this weekend, or hear them from someone elses trembling lips.
“beat on, you’ll be grand, its easy after that bit and sure the gear held”,
“happy days” I told myself, “that’s all I need to hear”, even though he was lying through his teeth, bugger always does and I always fall for it, literally.
Alex Honnold free soloing ‘The complete scream’ E8 6b
So I’m at Fairhead for 3 days of climbing, camping and craic, the sky is blue, the suns out and the forecast is epic. I’ve just made it to the end of the first pitch and thanking the Gods that im there. First route of the day was supposed to be a nice wee warm up, not a bloody Elvis (Vegas era) leg inducing near struggle.
“warmed up yet” Ian laughed as he reached this delightful little perch, 30 metres up this column of perfect vertical Dolerite.
“I don’t know why you’re laughing, you’re up next champ”. Not a flinch, not even one, gear sorted, on belay, let’s go.
Top tip, there are no warm up routes at Fair Head, just awesome ones.
It's the 4th time I have made it to the festival and the crowds this year were the biggest yet, with 450 brave souls making the long journey for most, to ‘the head’.
The crag stretches for over 5km and is packed with long sustained routes on perfect (for the most) dolerite rock. The rock swallows up every bit of gear on your rack for bomber placements, that your very grateful for as the routes are all forearm pumpingly long.
The crag sits behind a boulder field by the sea and offers a panoramic view of Rathlin Island. What a bloody view it is too, if you ever remember to turn around and look at it whilst climbing. Which is highly recommended.
'Look at thon view'
'Awesome jugs dude!'
After a great run up Taoiseach (VS 4C) where we actually stayed on Taoiseach this time and not Cyclone (E3), I spotted Alex Honnold about to ab into something very long with just his climbing shoes on his harness.
“I bet he’s about to solo something”
I said to my self as he rigged up his rappel (well isn’t that what Yanks do, they rappel?) I looked for the best vantage point and sat down for his free solo up ‘the complete scream’ E8 6b. It was a sight to behold for sure. He was slow and calculating, literally every move he made with his feet was perfect, unreal, I've never seen anything like it. He slowly waltzed his way to the top making it look so easy,
I really need to work on my footwork thats for sure after watching this shit.
His talk in the barn that night was a humours dig at the lack of bolts on the crags over here. He recons we are all free soloers as the gear is non existent ( maybe on E8s pal) and so run out, that we may as well be free soloing. Hey if Alex Honnold wants to call us free soloers I'm taking it for sure ha ha. Hey he’s ok this yank.