For some reason I have never liked Lower Cove. At some point after the fresher’s trip in my first year I just stopped liking it. I have absolutely no recollection of what the event which caused this irrational dislike was. There were a few bad days out, but nothing so bad as I could blame it for this blind hate. Possible reasons include: the only piece of gear I have ever lost was there, or that everybody ALWAYS goes to Lower Cove (it does get a bit excessive). And then all of a sudden, on the Sunday just past my thoughts changed.
I feel this is an appropriate song title given the circumstance.
So, after listening to the voices in the aether and the void (mainly chatting on Facebook and hearing from word of mouth) I learned of a large group heading climbing as the weather permitted it. The people included: Prebble and Jamie, Kyle and Micheal, Sinead and three of her pals from Ozone/Boulderworld. So I quickly gave a shout out to Rooney, who answered in the affirmative, which is always good, and all looked well. The next day I headed to Carricklittle carpark in a timely fashion, at the hour of 10am (I know, these alpine starts will one day get the better of me, I must slow down).
I managed to meet up with Sinead and her crew, and Kyle and Micheal’s dream team, but the others were absent. A quick phone call informed me that some mischievous engine faeries had stolen parts of Prebble’s engine, and they were currently on a quest to win them back (Prebble is a numpty and put the wrong fuel in his car and had to get it drained). So I was to be out a climbing partner until they made their way down at a later hour. Oh well, it was a nice day, and the walk wasn’t too bad.
On the dander we discussed a small shack and the accompanying land, and my wish to turn it into a second QUBMC cottage, though was quickly brought to Earth by the realisation that I am no where near to having the money to buy a bus ticket, never mind a shack. And that is before to consideration of replacing missing walls and adding a roof. It seems my dream house is a little far off for now, but maybe when I marry a rich lady I can afford it with her hard earned money (I’m looking at you, Ivanka Trump). But as we dandered we moved at a calmer pace than I am used to, this was exactly what I needed. After a solidly (or more appropriate, liquid) spell of weather over winter, walking to crags was a rare event. This had left me lacking in cardio fitness for walks, especially with a full trad rack and single rope in my bag.
As we arrived at Lower Cove I had a look in the cave, at third corner, while the others dandered over to first corner. Once out of eyesight (as it isn’t cool to stress other people unnecessarily) I had a quick run up Agag’s wall, which I had my eye on for a while but was never at Lower Cove to do. After a successful and incident free climb, I had a quick toilet break (only number one thankfully) and headed over the top and went to see what mischief the others had got up to. As I sauntered along, I reached the walk down to the standard lunch spot at the bottom. It was upon reaching this spot that I realised I was actually at second corner not first, and had to walk back up to the top and head farther along. After a final run at it, I managed to regroup with the party just as they were all about to start their respective leads.
As Sinead and co. moved upwards I noticed two things: I think belay glasses are a waste of money (only because I don’t have money to buy them), and that Sinead shouts at all times while climbing and that it’s hilarious. I then turned my attention to Micheal and Kyle, the latter of which was teaching the former of which about trad climbing. While Kyle climbed I took this opportunity to pass on some of my own highly useful trad expertise. These packets of information were to allow him to adapt smoothly into trad from bouldering. “You see those strings you’re holding? They work like mats, they stop the climber getting hurt if he falls.” “When you finish the route, you don’t hold the top for 3 seconds and jump, instead you need to climb on top and sit down.” Doubtless I was a huge influence on his understanding of this passion of ours.
Soon we sighted the group of three coming from the carpark, and I was reunited with my partner (not that kind of partner) Rooney, so the climbing could start in earnest. We bickered like a married couple, and soon sighted and began preparing for the upwards movement on Half Corner. Now after a long break in his climbing (caused by his presidency year, and sloth-like-nature) Dorian Rooney had become a wreck of a man. He climbed to the small hollow below the roof and began fiddling with the crack in there (now it could have been for gear, but the noises indicate otherwise) and spent a long time noticing how his trad head had deteriorated a bit. After a while he regained upward momentum and was soon triumphant atop the arch.
Soon I had joined him, though not before appreciating the hollow below the roof for the safe haven it was. We opted for the shorter and faster scramble down under the arch. After taking a couple of steps the quite large (like actually the size of a microwave) block I was standing on moved far to much to be regular. After letting out a small shriek (the kind that is high in pitch, and slightly muted as avoiding the danger is more important than making a scared noise) and moved back in a speedy style, we decided that the scenic route was far more fun than hobbling out of the Mournes at the end of the day. As we returned to our bags the guide book was scoured for a suitable route to test myself on.
Something was said about doing Overdue, but it is a route which I have always been scared of doing. Sadly (rather thankfully) Jamie was leading it when we looked, so I chose instead to do Meat Grinder. Looking up at the route it didn’t look so bad as the name suggested, so we racked up and I set off. After a few meters, and two pieces of gear to stop us rolling off the belay ledge if I fell, I had reached the bottom of the crux. I began my illegal construction immediately. Between several down-climbs (so as not to ruin the on-sight) I made a good nest of gear. Originally there was a ball-nut that quite literally fell out when I touched it by accident, but I replaced it with a cam placement which I was an idiot to miss. One last push and I committed to the layback (whoops), reached up to a poor fingerlock, and stepped my feet hilariously high to the break. Immediately I began the gear search, I was pumped and despite telling Rooney I wasn’t panicking (which I don’t think he believed) I was very much in trouble. The holds were slopped, I was frantically placing a bad black tricam and then I saw it. A shit hand-jam. I took it, while having to re-adjust every few seconds, I placed an offset and felt safe. But I wasn’t to give up the on-sight yet.
I made an improbable feeling move up on this baggy hand-jam, and was now through the crux. I then began feeling fine again (the truth this time), and I placed a solid red cam. I stood on a nice ledge and shook out my pump for a few seconds (probably more like 10 mins). Thankfully the rest of the route was easy moves and jams, leading to flat ledges, which are lovely lovely holds. At a similar time Jamie had surmounted the crux of his route, and we leaned over to fist-bump each other in celebration, and began racing to the top. Jamie and I realised we would have to share anchors and agreed it would be fine. So we built a four-piece anchor for extra safety. We then also realised that left two pieces each, exactly enough for two separate anchors. So we used our brains and did that instead.
After Rooney made me seem shit by seconding the thing at a speedy pace, we decided he should do Gynocrat. While snacking and having a deep conversation about politics and the challenges to the modern man (talking complete bollocks) Kevin Cheung appeared in the twilight. Apparently he was on day-release from TNOC and had craved some walking, and joined our in depth discussion. Soon we could take no more and made movements to try and climb things.
We moseyed on over to the bottom of the glorious crack and roped up. It was as during this moseying I finally got the joke. Gynocrat. It’s a giant crack…..called GYNO-crat (the innocent or stupid should google gyno and think about it). And it only took two years. Rooney blasted upwards while placing good gear after the difficult start. Soon he was cruising the upper parts of the crack, and I then realised he was part magpie (likes shiny things and making nests). After he finished, he was at the top section, and had completely gone past the part where he was to step right on to the ledge that Gynocrat finishes on. Once he placed some top-rope gear, he down-climbed to the rail, and made the appropriate moves right to finish and set up a belay.
While I retrieved the gear, I saw that Stephen had regained his memories of gear use well, and had made the route look easy as a bonus. We ambled down the death decent, only for Rooney to point out I had been doing it wrong, and that there was a totally safe and reasonable walk to be taken. So we took that instead. We soon regrouped with the group as a whole, and conversed about the routes done the day just gone. Apparently Overdue isn’t as scary for tall people, and so hope to crack it next time I have the chance. Micheal enjoyed trad climbing (we will corrupt him yet), and in general everyone had a grand time. The master Cheung used his Sony A7R II with Sigma 18-25mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens (his Iphone) to perfectly capture a lovely panoramic of the cloud and mountains in the dying light of the sunset.
Absolutely fantastic photo by Kevin Cheung.
And that was the day that I started to like Lower Cove.