Fowl Play

(by Gerry Moss, September 2008)
Climbing on Hen Mountain in the Mournes.

Having been frequently described as possessing less flesh than a plucked chicken, I decided it was high time to revisit Hen Mountain in the Mournes (it being all of twenty-five years since I was last there). This is an ideal venue for a day trip, being the nearest of the Mourne crags to Dublin – in fact, only a hen’s race from Newry, via the little village of Hilltown. The approach is nice and short too, along a laneway to the foot of the hill, then up a grassy path to the tors – a little less than half-an-hour up, twenty minutes down.

Being tors, they only have to cope with whatever rain falls on them, so there is little or no seepage, they dry very quickly and have little vegetation, providing routes on clean rock. Sitting on top of the hill, they get plenty of wind, so midges are never a problem.

True, protection is sparse on most of the tors (the Tower being the exception), but this, to my mind, makes it the thinking man’s crag. There is nothing like making thin moves a long way above your last bit of gear to focus the mind and sharpen the perception. Besides, once you get used to the fabulous friction, and master the knack of toe-jamming in the rounded cracks, the climbing here will do wonders for your confidence.

Some might advocate top-roping, but the scarcity of anchor points above a lot of the climbs could provide problems there. In any case, there are sufficient climbs in the lower grades to cater for the most modest, and cautious, of climbers.

So, spread your wings: fly the coop.