Hen: A Crag for All Seasons

I’m really not even sure you guys read the reasons I give for picking songs.  I don’t blame you in the slightest.  Also, it has become increasingly hard to make any up, as I have used many of the justifications I can think of.  SO, here’s the drilly cuz (if you don’t know what that means you are not cool, you are a fool) from now on unless there is a good reason for me picking the song, I’l just not bother.  The new format is to simply have a line explaining the basic post topic, and then a song I want to share with you while you read, so here goes.


We went to the Mournes recently, and it was fun.  I do however apologize, because yes, that video below does say “Trap-City”.  Now….just give it a chance, if you REALLY want to get a slight glimpse into what music I listen to, then it is worth it.  If not, well consider it a test of your faith in my song choice, have the others I picked really been so bad?

Well, no that those formalities are out of the way, we can get down to it.

In the previous post, or perhaps the one before last, I mentioned the skill of optimism.  Now, what happened on Sunday past was no feat of optimism.  It was out-and-out lunacy.  Pure, unbridled madness.  We had originally made some marvelous plans to go climbing in the Mournes.  This was a mistake.  Nevertheless, we checked the weather forecast.  This was a mistake.  It said to be pissing down all day, though I have had much experience with Mournes weather, and had hoped it may come in early the night before and be climbable by noon-ish.  This did not happen.

So a wagon full of Chris, Clare, Colin and Anthony appeared at my humble retreat in the beautiful urban hub of Bryansford.  We drank the mandatory ritual drink of coffee, and laughed at the idea of actually climbing in this weather.  Instead we all agreed that a short but “vigorous” walk, followed by a retreat to my house to dry off and warm up.  In this case, vigorous actually meant ludicrous, visibility of 20m, winds of 45km/h gusting to 50km/h, and it rained.  Hard.  If I had to guess (which I don’t but I like to) I would say an equivalent of the Irish sea was poured upon us over the whole course of the ordeal/trip.

We rendezvoused at the carpark, and dropped everything but our spirit and waterproofs.  I opted to go for only the coat and no shirt, under the windproof layer I had realized the ambient temperature was actually quite ideal for walking quickly.  We began our march at a not too relaxed pace, fully aware of how wet we had already gotten in just getting out of the car.  We had a good feel of the weather stone, the omens foretold…..wet, drippingly so.  Perfect for our needs this day.  As I had not walked with other people in a while (mine is a lonely and solitary existence in the Mournes) and didn’t have any idea how to walk at other people’s speeds.  Luckily we all seem to walk at about the same pace, so my reintegration to group walking was smoother than expected.

Soon we reached our first real obstacle, THE GULLY.  Now this is a place that is breezy at the calmest of times.  I feel I can’t convey with mere words the sheer force of the wind, but I shall try.  I was ungracefully pushed up the hill and through the thinnest part as speed.  I had to CRAWL through the wind, and even this was hard.  Why?  TO DO IT AGAIN OF COURSE!!!  Fantastic fun it was, many a whoop and yelp I made.  All of us safely to Greg (shelter stone) we headed up to the top of the Gully tor.  Miraculously there is a small wall right before you climb over the lip to the tor’s peak, and this creates a wind-free zone to sit in.

Not content to be molly-coddled, Chris and myself stripped to only boots and trousers and climbed over the lip, laying ourselves at the mercy of the elements.  They are not kind elements.  Crawling over the lip, I felt a slight nag of apprehension, distinctly aware that I was only just stable crouched low.  Chris was first to try to stand fully.  The friction of the coarse granite was rendered meaningless by the wind and rain.  Chris quickly had his feet slide out from under him and body clam the flattened summit.  Now, Chris is a……dense fellow.  A force which can move a man of his mass is not one to be taken lightly at all.

I steadied my feet into deep pockets and lent forward as I rose, the full force of the wind hit me like Thomas O’Hagan when he battered me in the head with a bouldermat (long story, good fun though).  I didn’t dare to stand fully, but I did rise as high as I could, daring a gust to carry off the tor.  I lent into the wind for as long as I could, until my chest and arms went numb from the cold, until my vision blurred from tears, and my hair was sodden with rain whipped over the mountain.  Now, normally I’m not one for this “new-age” stuff.  I don’t think yoga works as anything past stretching, I see meditation as a waste of time, and burning incense is a fast track to tell your parents you want to go inter-railing and get stabbed or abducted while trying to “find yourself”.

However, I have been shifted slightly in my thoughts.  When those people do that standing in the waterfall thingy in Asia somewhere, to “test themselves” or something, well I agree now to some degree.  Its just….fun, and I have no idea why.  There is no explanation, just that it feels like when you get to the top of a scary route and aren’t dead (for those not in the know, this is as close to excited as I ever get, see http://www.qubmc.co.uk/whatislife/into-the-mind-of-a-climber/).  Something something, battle the elements, overcome nature itself, or some such utter nonsense that you people with “feelings” would say.

Now it was as we descended we realized that because it was so wet, we could slide on the steeper bits of grass, more on that later.  We headed over to the summit tor, dedicated to at least trying for the top.  Just below the final stretch Colin, Clare and myself decided we were far too light to actually get there and not go for the first entirely unassisted flight of a human being.  Chris and Anthony however soldiered on and managed to come back without flapping, all was well and we began to descend.

Now, because we were so thoroughly soaked, it didn’t really matter if we got more wet.  Also, sliding is more fun and less tiring than walking.  The natural steps from these are to play DECENT GOLF!  The aim is to reach the bottom in as few slides as possible, with 3 steps for run up each time.  We all managed a decent distance on the first couple of goes, with Chris just having the edge over me, but this next slide was to make me king of the bog-sliders.  I spied a smooth line, right over a small drop, but on to the straight and flowing river/path that carries on most of the way down.  Such a slide is yet un-repeated in the sport (mainly because we invented it that day).  I managed to do the top quarter of Hen in one single slide.  Yes.  After this, the others gave in, sadly this meant walking the rest of the way.

After reaching the cars, we wanted to see the photos Clare had taken.  Clare, spent the entire afternoon taking photos, without a memory card in the camera.  So actually, she spent the day pointing an impotent box at things and pressing a button which ultimately did nothing.  And I thought my life was a waste.  But we all changed into dryer clothes and re-grouped at my house for food and hot beverages.

A good part of the day was still to be had, so to Newcrapple we went.  Kent’s amusements is a vile place, full of 12 year-olds trying to awkwardly shift each other.  The place has gone down hill since my teenage years.  No time crisis, no working strength hammer, and one of the buttons on the Star Wars game is broken, so you cant even destroy the Death Star anymore.  Worse than all this, those evil machines that take only 2p coins convince you you are worth something, by giving out thousands, nay millions of tickets.  And what can one buy with as many tickets as there are humans on the earth you ask?  Apparently two mugs, or a pack of cards.

One redeeming factor is the dodgems.  These small carts made of tinfoil and paperclips are the ultimate adrenaline rush.  Surprisingly fast, and I doubt safety tested, truly you take your life in your hands in this death race.  We reasoned that we should even the weight out in the carts, Chris on his own, Colin and Anthony, and Clare and I.  To then make it entirely unfair, We formed an alliance against Chris, and I reviled my secret weapon from my childhood, momentum.  One and one’s passenger throw their weight forward just before the impact, and the result is sideswiping-glory of all opponents.  The final result had everyone with whiplash, and I had a slight chip off my tooth, but it was well worth the fun.

After general dicking-around in the kids play park, some injures, and climbing underneath bridges, we found ourselves at the ever popular Herron’s.  This place is basically a better KFC, but almost exclusively for farmers and their families.  Must be a coming-of-age ritual or something, like a reward for getting your tractor licence perhaps.  After seeing a strange family all wearing matching coats, we separated and headed to our respective homes.

So there it is, no matter the weather, Hen provides for the dedicates acolyte such as myself.

Hen, the crag for all seasons.

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