In the Mourne Mountains there is a walk known as the three birds, that take in the peaks of Hen Mountain (354m), Cock Mountain (505m) and Pigeon Rock (534m). I had already climbed Hen Mountain and my next challenge was to climb Cock Mountain but that would have to wait…
I decided it was time to climb something again with ‘mountain’ in its name and I didn’t have far to look, or travel to find it. Divis, like Cave Hill, was right on my doorstep. Plus, it gave me the perfect opportunity to test out my lovely new clothes. I stepped out of the car, looking and feeling like a genuine outdoorsy person. I’d done my homework and ditched Vogue, instead I scoured the pages of Country Life magazine to see what a fashionable look for this season was. I had also avidly watched both Autumnwatch and Countryfile to see what colour palette was en pointe and brushed up on the movers and shakers in this branch of the market before I even stepped over the threshold of Cotswold.
Normally I’m a person who doesn’t need any assistance with shopping for clothes, but this was an unfamiliar environment for me. I had no clue what to buy, so I was very glad when one of the girls asked if she could help me.
‘Yes, I’ve recently taken up mountaineering and I need something suitable.’
‘For base camp?’
I didn’t know where base camp was in the Mournes.
‘Where is it you’re going?’ she thankfully didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Kilimanjaro? Everest?’
My mountain knowledge had a few holes in it, but I was fairly sure that neither of those two were in the Mournes. I desperately tried to remember the next peak that Lionel had told me we were going to climb.
‘K2?’ she was conjuring up mountains at an alarming rate.
No, I don’t think that was what it was called. Why couldn’t I remember the name of the stupid mountain, what was it? This was making me look like an amateur. Come on! Think! And then it came to me.
‘Cock’ I shouted out, delighted that I had at last remembered its name.
Every head in the store turned and stared.
The girl guided me away from all the lovely, fluffy, warm looking jackets I’d been standing in front of and handed me a very light anorak by my old friend The North Face.
‘I really think I need one of these ones,’ I said as I started to shuffle back in the direction of the padded puffer coats that were filled with feathers.
‘No, you need this one,’ she was quite insistent.
‘If I wear that, I’m going to freeze to death,’ and you don’t want that on your conscience now, do you? I wanted to add.
‘You need base layers,’ she explained.
That must be what they wore at base camp, I thought.
‘Let me show you,’ and I was hoping that she was going to lead me to something seriously fluffy looking. ‘You need a softshell to wear under it.’
She gave me a super light zip up jacket.
I tried another tact.
‘I saw Michaela Strachan was wearing a very nice mustard puffer jacket,’ that looked like it was keeping her lovely and warm while she was filming seals off the coast of Scotland.
‘That wouldn’t be suitable for you,’ the girl pointed out that Michaela wasn’t moving, she was standing, ‘and you won’t be doing that.’
Well, I begged to differ! I had spent an inordinate amount of time standing around gasping for breath on all mountaineering expeditions to date. I needed feathers!! I wanted feathers!!!
‘I don’t think you understand,’ I tried to explain to the girl who was ushering me towards the till, ‘I am very sensitive to the cold. I lose circulation walking past the fridges in Marks and Spencers,’ I tried to convey just how critical my condition was.
‘These are exactly what you need,’ she clearly didn’t get it. ‘Now why don’t you take them home and if there’s any problem, bring them back.’
I reluctantly took the two jackets that without a doubt would give me hypothermia and wondered how easy it would be to contact Michaela and ask where she had bought her lovely warm jacket.
I came home and immediately launched into a full-scale condemnation of the extremely inappropriate clothing the girl had recommended I buy.
‘They’re perfect,’ Lionel took her side. ‘They’re waterproof and windproof. Now all you need is a base layer.’
‘For base camp?’ I would have to Google and find out where this elusive place actually was.
‘We’re not going to base camp,’ he told me.
‘Yet,’ I was confident that if my mountaineering progressed as planned, we would be scaling Base Camp Mountain in the not-too-distant future.
‘Not any time soon,’ Lionel didn’t share my enthusiasm.
Well, first things first. I’d managed to climb Hen Mountain in all the wrong clothes, now that I apparently had all the right clothes (although I was still sceptical) I was ready to take on Cock Mountain.
‘I think we should do Divis next,’ Lionel suggested.
Divis wasn’t in the Mournes and it didn’t look that difficult. People didn’t climb it; they went for a walk up it. My ten-year-old nephew had done Divis, for goodness sake, in a pair of trainers! I wanted a real challenge. I wanted a real mountain.
‘I want to go to Cock Mountain!’ I stamped my foot but Lionel didn’t agree.
It was probably because I still hadn’t got the right clothes for a proper, big mountain.
So, here I was at Divis, dressed in my brand new North Face parka jacket that I had to admit was quite a flattering fit. The forecast predicted strong winds, so it was about to be put to the test and I fully expected it to fail.
It had said on the weather forecast that the winds would strengthen at 11 o’clock and exactly on cue, 40mph winds hurtled down the mountain towards us. I was in shock! First off, the weather forecast is almost always wrong and secondly, my new jacket and layering system was giving me complete protection from the hurricane force winds that were hammering us.
A trigonometry pillar marked the 475m peak of Divis Mountain and I was determined to get there come hell or high water. Well, it wasn’t actually raining but the hellish high winds were impeding our progress and I nearly lost my footing, more than once because of them. Eventually we reached the summit. I would have loved to have stood there, taking in the views across to Slemish Mountain but I was struggling to stay standing. I signalled to Lionel that I was going to have to go back down before a gust quite literally blew me off my feet!
The winds were getting worse and I worried if we waited any longer, we would be stranded up here. I never should’ve climbed a mountain in this weather! I scolded myself as I struggled to stay upright. It was a stupid, daft decision to go mountaineering in these conditions. I mean, what other numpty would put their life in danger, just to scale a summit.
‘Morning,’ a man and his wife greeted me on their way up to aforementioned summit.
I turned round to warn them of the looming danger and tripped over their Pomeranian prancing up behind them. Luckily neither I or the pooch were injured in the incident and I watched as it nimbly skipped on up over the rocky path. The wind gave me another shove and I wobbled, how on earth did a little fluff ball like that, not take flight! I thought it very irresponsible of its owners to bring it up here on a day like this.
Two steps later and another small dog casually sauntered past me, closely followed by a man dressed for a day at the beach.
‘Fresh this morning,’ he smiled as he walked past me.
That was an understatement! And FYI, not a day for shorts!! I continued down the mountain passing hardy Northern Irish walkers who were in no way fazed by the windy weather. Maybe, more mountaineering would make me stronger and steadier on my feet, I mused. Only time would tell.
I arrived back at the car delighted that another peak had been conquered and thrilled that my new jackets had passed the windproof test with flying colours. I was confident it was time for my next Mourne mountain. I turned to Lionel with rosy red cheeks and hair that looked like it had been dragged, then blown through a hedge backwards and he agreed.
Peaks: 1 (3 in total)
Polaroids: None because of windy conditions!
Prosecco: A cheeky little glass or two.
Photos: from a windy first visit and an icy return visit.
If you would like notifications of new posts, please follow me. Thanks x