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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fair Head Meet 2015

Wind, heavy showers and grey skies.  Summed up the Saturday of the meet!  Didn't put off 200+ people though.
Pic. Matt Pycroft - www.coldhousecollective.com

Over the weekend of the 5-7 June 2015 the 6th annual Fair Head meet took place and true to form it was even better attended this year.  Once again, climbers from all over Ireland and further afield came together to experience some of Ireland's best climbing whilst begging the weather gods to be kind! The now commonly known "Fair Head Meet" typically runs from Friday to Sunday on the first weekend in June and the agenda is always pretty straight forward - just to climb as much as possible!

Wall of Prey direct start. John sporting it up!

This year we were lucky enough to have speakers on both Friday and Saturday nights, kicking off with Will Sim on Friday night who made us all jealous with stories of his adventures around the world.  We were all pretty inspired by his approach to climbing and the aesthetic lines that motivate him - so it was nice for him to experience some of the best traditional and aesthetically pleasing lines you can find in the world at our very own Fair Head.

Hell's Kitchen Arete.

Will was followed on Saturday night by Hazel Findlay, who was unable to climb due to a shoulder injury but was blown away by the crag and is already talking about returning next year!  Hazel impressed us all with her presentation on how to be "brave and courageous" which you would have to be to have experienced some of the things she has!  Everyone had a smile on their face when she told us about the present she received from her Dad on her 11th birthday - a new route at Pembroke!  Nice one Steve!

Myself and John McCune were pretty stoked to be involved with some filming by Rab for the weekend, Matt and Dan from Coldhouse Collective should have some pretty awesome footage from the 6 days they were over.  None of us had much of an agenda - we just went climbing and luckily we managed to do a new 3 pitch E6, repeat some classics, get a bit scared bouldering between showers and generally have some good clean fun.  A big thanks to Rab for the support they are showing us, the Coldhouse Collective crew for coming...and the aforementioned weather gods for not being to brutal!

Tom Grant on Dark Forces. This was Toms first trip to the head and I am pretty sure he will be back next year!

After the original event in 2009 which saw about 50 attendees, it is great to see how much the Fair Head meet has grown, with over 200 people in attendance this year.  It has become something that is on most Irish climbers' agendas and I only see it getting bigger and better. It couldn't happen without the support of a lot of people, one of the main ones being Sean the Farmer. Big thanks also to Mountaineering Ireland who fund the meet and all the climbers who support the event - look forward to seeing you next year!

A typical end to an evening.......

Monday, 20 April 2015

Unfinished business.......

Last weekend myself, Ellie and the crazy pup Kahlua headed off in the new camper for a relaxing weekend away to try out the van. Of course, when you are a self-centred rock climber there is always something in the back of your mind when Donegal is the destination!

Over the last few years I have fallen off a few routes in Donegal and when this happens, these unsuccessfully climbed bits of rock sit in the back of your mind. I know there is a lifetime of new climbing in Donegal but this unfinished business just draws you back!  It's like it has one up on you. A relaxing weekend chillin also included secret intentions of getting these routes done - something Ellie didn't know much about until she was hanging off a sling above the Atlantic!

A winter of trudging around Scotland followed by 10 days of skiing in the Alps has not done much for my rock fitness but maybe off the back of a great season last year I'd retained a bit of it - you never know until you try! I guess having tried these routes already I knew a little bit about what to expect and knew that generally they were quite well protected!

On Saturday afternoon Ellie and I headed to Cruit Island to revisit a line that I first tired in March 2012 or 2013 (can't quite remember). It was during a MI meet based at Gartin and when I first meet a few of the local Donegal climbers.  I didn't know what to expect as most of Cruit is about 6m high and the grades range from S - VS.  Kev and Patrick pointed out the line to me. It was about 12m high and overhung by about 3m. Up I went and in no time I was pumped, cold and a bit scared. I had a few more goes but with no success. When I arrived with Ellie this time around, I managed the first ascent. It was cool to climb it ground up, the uncertainty is really exciting and I guess it's partly that adrenaline that keep drawing you back. 

Kahlua's scratch E5 6a/b ** 
18/04/2015     15m
Paul Swail & Ellie Harvey
Take a hanging belay 4m right of Chimney Sweep and below the steep juggy wall.  The route starts by traversing in from the right until above the belayer at 3m height. From here attack the wall direct via positive, steep and well protected climbing. The last few meters entertain the crux where a few puzzling moves up and slightly right gain the top slab! 

On Sunday, my attention turned to an arête I tried in July 2013. I took a bit of a whipper off the top of it - which plays massively on your mind! So during the walk I couldn't help thing that my arms would give up and I once again would be plummeting through the air. The crag faces pretty much N so dry conditions and a light breeze help to dry it out. Saying that, on this particular route I did abseil it and chalk the holds and I guess that gave a bit of a heads up of what to expect. I think E6 would be about right for an onsight attempt. It is very well protected and has a very safe fall zone - it was well tested a few years ago!

Kev McGee kindly give up his Sunday afternoon to ab in and hold my rope - thanks Kev and I will return the favour one day. Well as you can probably tell I got up the route. It goes a little something like this. 

Picture credits Craig Hiller. 

Rolling in the Deep, E6 6a/b*****************
19/04/2015        20m
Paul Swail & Kevin McGee 
A well protected and spectacular overhanging arête. A must for anyone operating at the grade. 
Take a stance 2m right of the obvious spectacular arête on a sloping non-tidal ledge. 
Make easy moves out left to base of arête. Climb it direct passing the crux at a small roof at half height. Excellent from start to finish. 

There are more lines to do so I will do a topo once they are sorted. If you are really keen to check it out the drop me a mail. 

Let's hope this weather hangs out so the Owey projects can be completed before half of the UK climbing population descends upon it!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

West face of Aonach Dubh....

Today I headed out with Mike Pescod of Abacus Mountaineering and his client Mick. Heading out with other qualified guides give some excellent opportunities to ask plenty of questions and most importantly seeing how they operate in the Scottish winter environment. A big thanks to Mike for letting me tag along - I had an excellent day!

Today we heading onto the west face of aonach dubh. Mike made the call to go there due to the wind direction and sheer volume of snow. Heading onto lee aspects there was a good chance you would be swimming and hearing from one source this was the case on the Ben!

The plan was to head up towards pinnacle face described as a IV but the first winter ascent missed the steep chimney at the start. The above picture shows Mike climbing the first pitch that consisted of good steep hooks, squeezing awkwardness and pretty good protection. He also thought it might be the first ascent of this part of the route and definently worth the short approach. We stuck to the pinnacle ridge/face after that and topped out via a traverse right onto the ampetheatre buttress area. 

Word is approaches are pretty difficult so it looks like a day of skiing at aonach mor with Blair! Could be worse I guess.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The big bad Ben....

Last night I headed to the west not really due to a good forecast for climbing but because I have a few days of shadowing and Avalanche forecasting. Hoping to salvage a the day I gave Guy Steven a call to see if he was about. He was and Blair Fyffe was also keen to join us. We took a leisurely start of 815 and with a key to the CIC hut we stopped for a brew before team psyche took us out into the gales and horizontal snow. 

We headed for The Great Chimney. The thinking was that it's easterly aspect would give us some respite from the wind and airborne snow - this didn't really happen but it was still enjoyable. Conditions on route were really good and the banter was 10. As we headed down tower ridge we could feel the temperature rising and by the CIC hut it was totally lashing! For some reason we were the only ones on the hills today. 

Pic - Guy Steven

Getting the hell out of there! Pic Guy Steven. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

And winter begins!!

On Tuesday I arrived up to Scotland to get ready for my BMG winter test. On Tuesday myself and Jonny Parr headed into Hells Lum for a look to see what was about. To our disappointment it was pretty warm and dripping so we sacked it and had a quick solo up Goat Track Gully. If anything it was just nice to get out and stretch our legs!

On Wednesday and Thursday we both had a few days of winter skills work with a college in Dublin. We made the most of the 2 days but with the very mixed forecast of high temps and winds we had to change our original plan and stay low linking up snow patches. On Thursday the freezing level dropped allowing us to do a bit of a horseshoe around the northern Corries and further consolidate on their skills!

After the storm named Harold passed through last night with mega winds rocking the van all night I was a bit optimistic to say the least today! The forecast had a glimmer of hope with a lull forecast for midday. The wind settled as we arrived at the based of Stirling Bomber and myself, Tom and Ian had a great day. Tom lead the crux pitch with easy - good skills dude!  Here are a few pics!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Summing up 2014......

2014 was prettying special. I had big great ideas about writing a fancy blog to sum it up but these pictures should do it justice! 

January took me to La Grave for my second BMG induction on the road to becoming a guide. Having done a few seasons in Serre Chevalier it was hard to believe I never ventured over the col! Skiing under la Meige was brilliant along with the banter and another small step on the way to becoming a guide.

February involved heading over to Scotland for some winter action and work! Conditions were excellent but localised in a few areas due to a huge volume of snow. Below I am enjoying The Genie in the Cairngorms. Pic credit Gary Bloomer.

March was another BMG induction in Scottish winter. Passing this I became a trainee guide and joined the BMG proper. Back to Northern Ireland did a bit of rock climbing before a quick trip out to Austria to hook up with the Taylor boys. 

April the weather started to play ball and with not much rock fitness slab climbing was on the bill and a wee route we're all learning on Binnian. It is one of the best lines in the mournes and even Ireland! Perfect conditions helped along with young Quinns psyche. Also the first confirmed E7 I have climbed! A wee trip to Spain with 10 very psyched youth ended my 4 and a half years working for MI as a youth development officer. This ended a great era but and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with MI!

May involved a bit of work to help keep the mortgage payments up and the fuel for trips up to Fair Head! This years FH meet was again a big success oh and it is a truly magical place, even the rope thinks so.......

June was my first trip to the very special island of Owey. We managed to establish a number of route that will hopefully be future classics.  Trying to establish this with McCoey was some banter and commitment. Check out that ab rope. 

July once again took me back for another trip to Owey. It was pretty sweet to get involved and climb on the Holy Jeasus Wall. McCune got the money pitch and pictures but this shows off the angle pretty well!  I also had a trip with the youth to the Burren, a wedding in Spain and England and a ML training on Achill Island. I also got hooked up with Rab and a sponsorship deal! Variety is the spice of life.

August was spent in N Wales getting prepared for my summer test. There were so many highlights and this was one of them. Enjoying Electic Blue above a very turbulent sea!

September was amazing because 2 months spend in N Wales paid off and I passed my BMG summer test. I also ticked the classic Lord......

October the fine weather continued and with a few months of trad strength I laid a demon to rest by climbing Above and Beyond at the Head. Caff came over so we could do a bit of work/ climbing together. Here he is enjoying the Mournes at their best. I also climbed a few more E7's and did a bit more work.......

November was time to get out of the country again and some winter sun before Scotland for a full winter season in 2015. Here McCoey is getting his pump on in Terradets.

December I got a wee trip away with my wife to Budapest did a little bit more work in Cork, went to Andorra for a stag do, spend Xmas in England and finished off maybe my most memorable year of rock climbing every with an ascent of The Thing in the Forest, another E7! Note - don't use the Hawk as a photographer!!!

2015 is already looking like a very busy year but I will be taking it one step at a time and get my winter test in March sorted!

A special thanks has to go to my wife without her support I couldn't be living the dream. All the best to everyone in 2015. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

New blog, good times and adventures all the way......

Doing my bit for Wilkestock

So here it is - a little blog of my own.

New routing on Owey - credit Craig Hiller.

It has been an amazing year for work, play and fun times and lets hope there are many more adventure in the years to come.  I have as usual been really rubbish at keeping a blog up to date but maybe that will change.

hanging with the Oldrids.
So along with quitting my job, passing my guides summer test, onsighting more E6's in one year than my whole life, head pointing a few E7's and getting taken on by a sponsor like Rab it has been a totally unforgettable year! The bottom line is that I have just been really enjoying myself........

Lots of sun baked rock in N Wales.