Smear Fest and Head Games
|Date: 21st April 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney
5 of us camped and climbed in the Mournes over the weekend, PJ, Pete, Sandra, George and myself. The other four got away and met up around 9:30am but, having been on the wine the night before, I didn't get to the Meelmore campsite till 11:30. George had phoned the night before and I'd vaguely remembered directions, but not the actual climbing spot. "It's got to be Bearna Slabs", I thought, rhyming off the one climbing spot I'd ever been to in the Mournes. (That was a trip with Psyklone that I'd rather forget about). So I hiked up there, figuring if they weren't there I'd head for one of the peaks and meet at the campsite later. As luck would have it they'd changed their minds that morning and foregone the longer walk in to Lower Cove.
The girls were well into their first route of the day while George and Pete had finished an HS and were on their way back down. The day was overcast but dry and the granite offered excellent friction, something everyone constantly remarked on. We scooted up two VSs which were just smear fests. The lower sections were relatively easy but the VS moves higher up didn't prove very difficult either, little pockets for the fingers, smearing feet but the grip was so solid that we were second guessing the guide book. "Are you sure that's a VS???". We rounded the day off on an E1 and we were more sure of the grade here. Egged on by the girls who'd finished up on our HS and are masters (mistresses?) of the double-entendre, we eventually got to beneath the crux, our multi-pitch rope work getting a bit muddled up on the way. From the ground we thought the move was right out on the face of a 60-70 degree smooth slab but even fearless Pete doubted that when we got up close. We decided the move was round the side up a similarly sloped smaller slab but with a few thin cracks you could hand jam. Another smear job with the feet high and laying back, it was a gutsy lead by Pete and I was glad to be going third on a tight rope.
After packing up George and Pete took off like hares as if there was free wine at the campsite, which was only half true. We stopped at Spellack on the way down to prep for the morrow's climbing and picked out some nice routes up the obvious crack lines. The campsite was a bit windy and we tried to use the cars as windbreaks but it didn't stop my old 3 man tent from threatening to fold in half. PJ's box of wine was sampled and Sandra provided some bits and pieces to snack on, George especially enjoying the "root vegetable" crisps. Beetroot and turnip crisps?? I ask you! We should have been munching raw bloody steak after that E1 and the chest-beating run down the hill. Anyway the cold was getting to us and even Sandra's Scottish line-dancing shuffle couldn't keep her warm so we decided a hot meal was in order. While George was decked out in his best pulling gear I was still in my tramp's outfit as we pulled out of the site. One U-turn later I was hunting through the back of the car looking for something clean when I spotted some jeans that turned out to belong to a much smaller waisted person. I spent the evening at the Chinese restaurant with my fly open and top button undone while Sandra's teeth fell out and PJ regaled us with murderous stories. The wine flowed, the stick flew and we laughed all the way back to my tent where we finished off the wine, listened to Pete's Top Cat impression and generally fell about. My tent door zip had busted and it was hilarious watching four drunk people trying to step backwards through jammed doorway.
George had started up a great conversation piece on how much of climbing is a head game, when you're confident and feeling strong you'll power up anything that's in your comfort zone. If your seconding something you'll try moves that you wouldn't necessarily attempt when leading. And there are moves you'll try 3 feet off the ground that you wouldn't when you're 100 feet up. But if just takes a slip or a tight section to shake you up a little and suddenly a Severe route is daunting. And that leads us to the Sunday which started well when my tent tried to fly away over the hedge cos it knew it was for the bin.
Spellack was only a short walk in from the site but we were all feeling the effects of the previous day and night. Pete and PJ started off on a HS while George picked out another HS for us "to warm up on". It turned out to be a right bog in the crack and 15 minutes later he was doing Elvis impressions, swearing to himself, resting on the rope and generally not having a good time. "Yesterday was easy VSs, today is hard HSs!", I quipped while thinking "Feck if he's struggling I'm in trouble!" I got there eventually doing the same shaky-leg dance at the same spot that George had. Back on the ground we pulled out the guide book and realised we'd actually climbed a HVS. Emotions immediately went from quiet shame to boastful pride. We started out on another HVS that turned out to be even dirtier than the first so traversed left onto a very nice HS that Pete and PJ had just done. To round up the day I had a go at leading a Severe using a technique known as "whole body jamming" or "making love to the mountain", the tiredness taking it's toll (my excuse).
So a great weekend, brilliant climbing and good craic. Soon to be repeated I hope.