A Natural 7

So guys, between the music and the last bit, this one is a bit more……..something something.  Fear not, its still funny and uplifting, but I did end up being a bit preachy at the end, but in a good natured way.  So please read on.

Here is a song I like, for now.

Optimism is…..a skill.  I takes total dedication, to ignoring the facts and figures which say otherwise.  Many years of training are required to master it, and many of the club’s older members have given years to developing the art.  Many of you freshers will also pursue a mastery of its teachings, though none so successful as those who make it to the Scotland winter trip.

I dare not call myself a master, or even an expert, but I do claim to have some experience.  Enough to go trad climbing in the Mournes at any rate.  We organised a group to head out for a delightful day, when the weather was less than perfect.  Things were to be cold, windy, and raining until noon.  But we had those experienced in the ways of optimism!  The crew for the day consisted of; Myself, Toby, Liz, Colin, Chris, Conor (McNamara) and Kyle.  The original plan was to rendezvous at mi casa around half 10, drink coffee and tea until the weather cleared, then make a dash for the driest bit of granite we could find.

The morning brought the first surprise and bounty of optimism, the forecast……had changed.  No longer was there rain until 12, it had pissed down all night and we had been delivered an end at 8am.  The mystified group soon arrived in short order, and we drank the required amount of caffeine to function at a basic level, and made plans.  Now I shall repeat perhaps one of the most uttered sentences in my reports.

With the heavy rain the night before and short hours of light, our best prospect was, of course, THE BEST CRAG IN THE MOURNES!  That is, Hen.

Onward we set, in our mighty chariots made of Iron (plastic panels) and Steel (crumple zones) to the well worn parking spot I recently purchased at the carpark below the Mountain (hill) we aspired to ascend.  A touch of the weather stone reviled that the omens were in our favor, and our optimism was well placed.  We began the all too familiar slog, though short it is intense, and continued to practice our art.  “If the water is down here, it can’t be up there!” we reasoned (hallucinated), a phrase which I have spoken umpteen times.  This was also followed in quick order by Master Vye’s favorite observation, “What else were you going to do today?”.  Oh yes, the optimism was well in flow by now.

The whole of the walk up we though inwardly about the wind situation, dare not we mere mortals question the will of the air.  Though we did beg that it be merciful that day.  Miraculously it was.  We arrived at Greg (the shelter stone) and cowered from surprisingly weak winds.  We opted to climb a couple of routes in the gully as fast as was possible, in case the wind was only in a moment of whimsy, not its proper mood.  We succeeded in both of these routes, and ensured all at least top roped both.  On a side note, I also managed the first clean down-lead of Jump Route, largely a result of Toby frequently shouting “SICK”, “RIGHT ON” and “YOU GOT THIS MAN” in thick Californian accent.

After all this, Colin looked to consolidate his trad climbing experience, last used on Gola and in need of revival.  He leveled sights on the established ‘not-routes’ on the shelter stone side of the gully, while I explained the Hen etiquette on the matter.  To explain, there are a few routes on this side, clearly climbed at some point in history, and often many times in a day.  These are unspoken of, as they are quite short and probably range between VD to S by Hen standards.  The original lack of naming or recording is likely due to these facts being summarized as “not worth naming”.  Nowadays however, its much more a case of them being established un-named problems, and were you to name one and record it the response would be “Who the fuck do you think you are to name it, when so many others could do the same”.  We climbers are a ‘argumentative’ sort, but there you go.  They have no decided names or grades, but all are fairly nice if you are of the soloing persuasion (myself included) or looking to ease slowly into the fairly bold climbing that characterizes Hen climbing.

After some fairly incident free success, and a good bit of dressing like Batman (Liz) and Batwoman (myself, and I do say the top was quite flattering), we moseyed on over to the classic Mainstreet wall.  We now aspired to something a little more difficult, and so Kyle made a successful lead of Mainstreet itself, while I looked to the only route on the wall I was yet to complete, Little One.  A bit of technical bridging had me easily to the gear in the break, and I built a small (5 pieces, as much as one would find in many other Hen routes all together) nest and looked at the prospects of moving forward.  They were poor to say the least.  My holds? good small sloppers then a mono, and a bad two-finger pocket.  Rare is it to find a mono on a trad route which actually is used as a meaningful hold, but there you go.  It seemed that one was to haul until said mono was at hip height and hang from a poor slopper at the rounded top, and rockover to top-out.  This may have been possible on a colder dryer day, but not this day.  I shudderingly lowered myself from above the mono, onto then below it, and after a total of about 25 mins (apparently, it seemed shorter to me) I gave up.  Mister Toby gave it a fair old bash, but found it equally unlikely a prospect.

So we looked to our savior Kyle to allow me to dangle on top rope to retrieve my gear, and follow up the rest of Mainstreet.  While we all packed up the right honorable Colin began to take photos.  Now this is where it gets deep, so brace yourselves.

In this the age of technology and Instagram, people take a lot of photos.  On average 60 MILLION photos are uploaded to Instagram EVERY DAY.  People take photos of themselves, their friends, and why?  To tell future views; Hi, I was here, I existed, I mattered.  And someone cared enough to take my picture.  Most of our photos show us at birthdays, parties, nights out.  They take photos off the happy moments.  If you looked only at a photo album, you could assume a person lead a happy, care free existence.  You never take photos of the little things, the used plaster, the spilled cereal on the carpet, changing bed sheets.  These are the little things that make up life, and nobody takes pictures of them.

Almost every photo we take of each other is fake, in some way.  The smile you weren’t smiling before, the hand around the shoulder, or even the people you have only known a while.  When you look at that perfect 10, they wake up looking like a 4 at best.  But that person who hasn’t really tried and looks like a natural 7?  That’s probably the real 10, because without all the makeup, filters, hair, fake smiles and constant Facebook posting to make it seem like they are living life?  Maybe natural 7 is all we can hope for, maybe it doesn’t get much better, but its real.  And it’s always going to look at least a 7, and that gets you a first in university.

Maybe things got a bit confusing there, but I guess what I’m saying is this.

Better to see real life through your own eyes, than on your Facebook feed.  Even if it’s not quite as good as you had dreamed, it’s still a lot better than sitting at home pretending to live.

Natural 7, the real 10.

Natural 7, the real Hen.

In keeping with this idea, here are some photos that were taken, 100% real, unedited in any fashion, and not posed for.  

Now, fuck off and go make your own memories, boring plebs.  

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