The Rise of the Militant Swans

The song I picked this time is relevant for two reasons, the first is that the time of day referenced resonates with the timing of my main achievement of the trip.  The second is the idea of a group of “lawwwdzzz” out on the town of Belfast (or Bel-fawst, as some of you may know it), which will be explained all in good time


So, after quite a while sitting at home, staring at the Mournes and breathing heavily (and that’s ALL I was doing…..I swear…) I had become restless without recent climbing (no trad within about 2 days, this trip was just before the one up Binnian with Andrew, I just wrote it up in the wrong order).  Needless to say, when offered a premium spot in Roisin’s car (riding shotgun) along with Liz and Tanty, and a day of falling up routes I leapt at the chance, and so the day was set for success.

The major first event of the day was when Roisin appeared at the time she said she would (no seriously, I swear on the tin of Carlsberg I am currently drinking).  Astounded I downed my coffee, prepared my bag and dashed to the car, and soon we were off.  Now unsurprisingly as is the way of climbing in Ireland, the weather was far from what the night previous trip to the oracle had shown.  The combination of low cloud, and the particular specifics of how damp this cloud appeared, all thoughts of having a nice day on the Tors of Bearnagh were thrown to the wind (it was quite windy also) and instead we soldiered on to the best crag in the Mournes.  I do of course, for those uninitiated, uneducated or just plain in denial of the truth, refer to Hen mountain.

We began our lovely short walk in, after a customary and ritualistic check of the test rock (if its dry Hen probably is, if not, don’t even get out of the car) and soon found ourselves half way talking of demon horses and their absence of the day (they do exist, they hide VERY well, are nocturnal and eat campers).  We reached the shelter stone, who I have named Glen, and sat about the task of eating and picking routes.  We agreed to look to the classic Jump Route (VS 7c+) and Escalator.  Tanty was to lead Escalator with me on second, Roisin led Jump Bullshit with Liz to follow.  All went well, though Liz had some difficulty finding friction the first couple of times.  Then we swapped for the second climb, Liz on Escalator and Tanty on Jump Fuckingsandbag.  Post mountain biking incident (the bastards) the route has become impassible, and sadly we were met with defeat, though Liz and Roisin had more success.

After more shite talking beside Glen, and the eating of snacks (did you know chocolate biscuits contain all you need in your daily diet?) we dandered over to the back side for a spot of ambition.  After some assurances from me, I convinced Roisin that there was an E1 solo to be had, which was well within the spectrum of feasible, and after placing her face to the wall and finding holds went for it.  Some graceful climbing by the skillful one, she topped out with psych intact, though she humbly claimed it didn’t count (it totally does).  Then began the first of the showers, all parties scattered and took refuge as best they could.  More dandering led to the bottom of Morgan, if one is familiar with the place.  I continued to assure people of the quality of routes such as Last of the Summer Wine (for Roisin) and Sunset (for Tanty).  Now sadly these routes have top quality upper halfs, though as seems a sort of trend to Hen, the first few moves are scrittley at worst, and luck-based at best.  As a result the intrepid Tanty was denied a begining, though this was likely a side effect of the earlier showers.  Roisin managed past the start, ignoring gear at my prompt (those in the know will attest to the poor nature, and great rope-drag caused by gear before half way) and with large reproductive organs, headed up the slab above, taking a harder variation than the regular course, surviving to the anchor.

After a quick walk off, all parties regrouped for further route selection, though the weather gods had other plans.  In protest, we formed a body pile for warmth.  I took the position at the bottom as to sacrifice myself as the solid foundation for the structure (with others on top of me, I caught less of the rain).  It was hear that the Hen massive was formed (big-up da crew) and Liz and I discussed the finer points of recruitment.  Soon the gang decided that the trip was tapering off, so Roisin elected to solo Keyhole Crack, while we migrated to King of the Mountain, which had previously eluded me when earlier in the summer I had attempted a solo on-site.  I had at the time renounced the quality of the route, though in my heart of hearts I knew this to be slanderous.  After praying to my new found god (Tanty) I was graced with crucial cams, and with tricams alike and Roisin thankfully not dead and reunited with the HMM (Hen Mountain Massive), I set off.

The beginning went without hitch, my trustworthy belayer Liz at the aft, my tricams to the helm, placed at the beginning of the traverse.  I moved out, with lovely horizontal pinches and good feet, to reach the rest on flat jugs before the crux.  I placed the lovely cams gifted to me by the lord (Tanty) and faffed about for a while, making various starts to the crux before deciding on a course of action.  I moved to the good side-pull, left foot to good edge, right hand slap on to slopper, right foot smear high, left hand to desperate slopper, right hand into a solid hand jam, some fear induced misplaced feet, but soon i stood in the break I had been slapping at for the last 10 seconds.  A nice easy (very careful and slow) foot traverse and final rockover had me on the top and I called safe while clipping the anchor.  The wonderful hand jam had yielded blood, but a fair price to pay for a successful attempt.

After a valiant effort by Roisin to second for the gear, we descended to Newcastle, for the fabled SPRINGROLLS from WOK IN A BOX (£2.60 for 6, best you ever tasted).  As we sat we began to discuss the nature of swans, as they sat before us at the pond.  Tanty then shared the story of the time a swan tried to drown his dog, and after deliberation (taking into account the sound of their calls) that all swans are smicks, in gangs carrying knives.  They terrorize passersby for chips, and attacking and hissing at those who deny (for reference this is a smick, skip to 2:00  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA_8dzFbAbA).

And so we have come full circle, to the origin of swan gangs.  All they want in life, is some of your chips, new Adidas tracksuits, and maybe a bag of workman’s glue.  To this day the Hen Mountain Massive fights for the rights of smicks and swans alike.