BARF Club Profile (As published in the Irish Mountain Log, June 97).

The Belfast Association of Rockclimbers and Fellrunners and was formed a few years ago (c1991) by Padraig McMallon and Darkness McNiff. The name BARF was actually developed from Arf, Arf which is what Darkie and Paddy used to shout to each other across the heather during their male bonding sessions. Like most clubs BARF started as a small group of people with a common interest, in our case it was climbing and the newly emerging sport of fellrunning. The founding fathers didn’t particularly feel the need to organise themselves into a club but they were being accosted at fell races for being “unattached” and there were financial advantages to being affiliated to various running and mountaineering bodies. So, one evening over a few pints they wrote out a constitution, elected each other into a committee and BARF was born.

Since then the club has grown to and stabilised at around 100 members. A lot of these have come from the fell running scene as the sport has exploded in popularity. In particular women runners have found BARF’s relaxed and friendly attitude a lot more welcoming than the competitiveness and machismo of the more established running clubs. Whether on training or racing in the mountains BARFers look out for each other. This is probably why most of us are so far down the field!!

On the face of it the running is the more active and vociferous side of the club. This is mainly because of the busy events calendar during the summer and the winter training, however, most of the members are also active “mountaineers” or rock climbers. These activities tend to be organised on a personal basis much in keeping with the casual roots of the club and, of course, the Irish weather. We don’t have as many official outings as other clubs but most people would be out on the hills doing something on a sunny day. And like any other pedigree mountaineering club BARFers have trekked in the Himalayas, assaulted Mt McKinley, explored the depths of the Colorado River gorge in the heat of the midday sun and done their share of sitting around in cafés in Chamonix waiting for the weather to clear.. The rock jocks patronise Boux and Tennerife and spend the winter on the Ormeau Climbing wall showing off their tans.

All in all there is a good intermix of members with most knowing a large proportion of the membership list. The Mourne Mountain Marathon is a good cross-denominational activity with BARF teams out for a nice weekend or biting at first place in the Elite Class. A couple of slide shows per year and barn dance or two helps to drag the more sedentary BARFers from their armchairs. The social highlights of the year are the Midsummer’s Night Barf in mid June and the Barf Turkey Trot on Boxing (St.Stephen’s) day. The former involves a big barbecue and a mass torchlight ascent of something big and easy in the Mournes. The past few venues have been Sl.Bernagh and Sl.Lamagan with the campsite being as close to the climbing as possible to maximise partying time. Don’t worry, we took all our cans and barbecues back out with us.

The Turkey Trot is a 6ml fell race on the North side of the Mournes, open to anyone fit enough to carry their Christmas excesses through the snow, rain, bog and ice. Casualties are few, however, as the course is well attended by relatives and friends out for a gentle stroll. All and sundry are invited back to the Tollymore Mountain Centre where BARF lays on a festive spread.