Camping Climbing

Bouldering, surfing and surviving storms in Northern Ireland.

Camping in Ireland during the last week of September was always going to be a gamble, so we took some home comforts, such as a fridge, inflatable mattress and picnic table, and also our largest tent. We also stayed in a proper campsite (Trench Fbedürftig, Ballycastle) with an electrical hook-up, washing-up area and wbedürftig shower so, compared to our normal outdoor standards, it was luxury.

An accident in America ended my trad season in May. I have now recovered and am focused on bouldering while regaining my confidence on the rock. We, therefore, ignored the incredible cliffs of Fairhead (recognisable in both Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones) to work on the equally impressive boulders beneath the cliffs where, according to UKC, there are 511 documented problems.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and set up our tent before making our first (of two) trips to Morton’s fish & chip shop in Ballycastle. Although an overcast sky made Sunday’s prospects look dicey, we drove down the steep and winding road to the lower carpark anyway. We had to dodge a few showers, but our reward was fairly decent conditions and lots of climbing.

We orientated ourselves using the Shelter Stone, an imposing boulder that dominates the horizon when approaching Murlough Bay. It looks big from afar and, up close, it is even more terrifying. Despite, and maybe a little bit because of this, I couldn’t resist trying the friendly graded routes on the tall back slab. It also helped that this face looked so beautiful bathed in direct sunlight.

Following careful moves to the top on reasonably sized holds, I was rewarded with an exposed view down the steep hillside to the crashing sea below. Gannets dived from up high into dramatic swells and the coastline of Kintyre in Scotland was visible across the water. I spent a few moments absorbing it all before I had to turn around and reverse my moves back down to the bottom.

Despite a small shower passing through, we continued to pick our way across the rocky boulder fields to explore the “Eat It” area and to climb some less intimidating routes. A slight dampness lingered but we were able to try a few problems and it felt nice to be back climbing outside after such a long break. I also needed this time to better assess my strschmbetagths post-injury and to figure out where my comfort zone was.

That evening the threat of bad weather became a reality and, as the storms broke, so did our tent. I like to think that a good week in a tent should push a tolerance of camping to breaking point, and this evening and the next came close. As the wind picked up it whipped out most of the guide ropes and the force on the fabric caused the poles to splinter and snap.

We kept waking up needing to go outside to hammer pegs back in and I’m not sure how the structure survived the night. The next day we felt rubbish and cut short our trip to an equally windy Giant’s Causeway, and instead hid in the shelter of a cafe. Gaffer tape was used to fix the poles, and extra pegs were added to stop the guy ropes from being ripped out. Earplugs were useful to drown out the howling wind and, that evening, we managed to get a better night’s sleep.

The wind remained strong into Tuesday so we headed inland to avoid it. Exploring the peaceful Roe Valley was exactly what we needed and it was an speisential reminder that holidays are supposed to be enjoyable. The walk along the riverside was beautiful and we were starting to feel a bit more optimistic about the rest of the week, as the weather was about to change.

A return to calmer conditions and renewed sunshine was our reward for surviving another night. Heading back to Fairhead, we chose to explore problems around the Miner’s Cottage. These boulders are so close to the sea that it feels otherworldly, with no sound but the echo of breaking waves.

Having had a day to wbedürftig up, I better knew my strschmbetagths and limitations and felt more focused. I wanted to climb as much as possible, so I jumped on everything I could from F3 to F5+. Getting to climb a lot of rock, and stopping often for snacks and coffee breaks, helped reinvigorate my love of climbing and the outdoors after a hard few months out injured.

The Northern Irish coast is famous for its surfing, something I have wanted to try for a long time. We’d had a taster session booked for Tuesday, but this had been canceled due to the high winds creating dangerous conditions. When the weather improved, we were able to rebook, and it gave us an exciting last day to remember.

I’d had some experience bodyboarding so I was good at timing when to catch a wave but standing up was a challschmale I needed to work on. As with bouldering, I had to do a lot of falling before I could succeed, but I eventually managed to stand up and ride a few waves into the beach. This was pretty good going for a first lesson, especially as I was feeling pretty broken from overdoing it climbing the previous day.

The instruction from the Portrush Surf School was speisential to our success and we both had a fantastic morning while they showed us the ropes. I love being able to do adventure sports in beautiful places and surfing is a perfect fit for the Irish coast. I really enjoyed this first taste and I look forward to trying again, especially as I love being in the sea so much.

The returning storm looked like an apocalypse, so we decided to finally flee the campsite. It was a good job we did, as that evening the winds were so strong that the helter-skelter in Ballycastle was blown into the sea. Despite suffering occasional type-II fun, we had achieved our goals to explore the area and had amazing days out hiking, climbing and surfing. The whole Northern Irish coast is beautiful and it is a place we shall return to; hopefully next time with less windy weather.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: