J2427 The fine tors of Hen provide a bouldering area that thinks its a crag giving numerous boulder problems, variations and short solos which only reach the stature of distinctive routes on The Tower. However the fine distinction between short route and boulder problem is academic on Hen as the majority of climbing is unprotected so in practice tying onto the rope is pointless. This means the technical grade is more relevant than the overall difficulty - indeed overall grade is usually redundant. Of much greater importance on first acquaintance with the area is the available protection and where it is good this is specifically mentioned in descriptions. The Tors are exposed to winds from all directions and so the routes dry quickly after rain but it is usually possible to find a sheltered spot - if the wind's not blowing! The large selection of climbing is on generally clean and sound rock much of which is in the lower grades, and is regarded as an excellent beginners crag but the protection is scarce. This means the routes are in fact serious leads with top-roping, for many, as the preferred means of ascent - but a word of warning; there is often a scarcity of belays on the top of the routes. Despite this the crag is popular so virtually no piece of rock has been left untouched and the supply of new routes in the lower grades is exhausted.
The starting point is the car park/picnic site (233277) on a minor road between Rostrevor and a cross-roads on the B27 Kilkeel Road. Follow the good track just opposite the car park to a gate and continue until a track on the left leads directly uphill to the tors. About half an hour from the car park. From this direction the tors are (from left to right) West Tor, The Tower, Summit Tor and South East Tor.
<display_map zoom="11">54.182187, -6.095063~Hen Mountain</display_map>
The south side of this tor presents a series of short gullies. The arete bounding the left-hand side of these gullies is Common Arete. Left of Common Arete is a generally vegetated area of slabs with the largest clean piece of slab marked by two white patches.
Aryan 15m S
D. Murray, T. Hawkins. 3/67.
Start - 20m left of Common Arete at two white patches on this clean piece of slab. Mantelshelf onto a small ledge/groove which curves down; climb straight up the slab on pocks, over heather ledge and then overhang to make friction moves to belay.
The groove slanting diagonally left from Aryan gives a pleasant VD
Paper Friends 15m VS 4b
G. Murray. 17/3/90.
Start - 1m right of Aryan at small pockets. Climb slab directly using pockets to obvious traverse line which leads right to nose. Pull up onto nose and climb to belay.
Common Route 45m M
Start - 10m left of Common Arete.
1) 25m Vegetated slabs to block belay.
2) 20m Cleaner rock to top.
Common Arete 45m M
Climb the easy-angled arete forming the left-hand boundary of the gullies, on fairly clean rock.
Jim's Jaunt 24m VD
C. Moore, W. Jenkins, J. Armstrong. 7/5/66.
Takes the left arete of the second (and chockstoned) gully. The slabby nose can be turned by taking to the gully itself or taken direct up a faint groove (4a).
The Merry Ploughboy 24m VD
C. Moore and Party. 7/5/66.
Start - at the base of the right-hand side of the second gully. Climb the slab and surmount the grassy block at 15m. Pull up and scramble to top.
Uncertainty 27m D
D. Bruce, C. Moore. 30/4/65.
Takes a line up the gully wall 3m right of The Merry Ploughboy. Climb a series of flakes to finish by a crack or short groove.
The next gully right is a double gully. Struggle Gully (4a) is a bridging and friction problem which takes the left-hand branch on clean rock. The right-hand side of the right-hand double gully is clean slabby wall and has the following route.
High Noon 27m HS 4c
W. Jenkins, W. Martin. 30/4/66.
A traverse of this right-hand wall with a boulder problem start. Climb pocks and chipped holds direct to reach large pocket or the curving undercut flake on the right. Up groove to large ledge (possible to finish here.) Walk left to where gully wall steepens at broken flakes. Either climb the wall moving right or, better, continue traversing across the gully wall until escape is possible, at a crumbly patch, up a seam.
A crumbly problem at 4c lies a few metres left at obvious pocket and below an undercut.
In addition this tor has several good short problem cracks near the top of the broad grassy gully which separates it from The Tower.
This tor provides longer outings with generally better protection than the other tors so are worth regarding as routes. The obvious feature is the half-height shelf on the front (south side) of The Tower. To the left of this, the wall facing towards West Tor has an obvious small cave a couple of metres above the ground. Climbs are described in an anticlockwise direction looking down on the tor, starting from the top of the gully separating The Tower from West Tor.
Near the top of the gully separating The Tower from West Tor is the obvious leftward trending dyke of Escalator. 5m to the left of Escalator and 25m left of the cave is a thin weathered rib slanting leftwards - Jump Route. Left of this is a friction boulder problem, Wet Paint, (5aT(D. Holland. 24/8/75.) which gains the small niche from the left and continues up the slab.
Jump Route 15m VS 4c
Follow lower, fainter, dyke, 3m left of Escalator.
Escalator * 15m D
The obvious leftward-trending line of large knobbles.
Escalator Direc 15m S 4a
First few moves as for Escalator, then climb a more vertical weakness in the rock.
Just right of Escalator Direct is a short boulder problem (5b) which directly gains the large pock mark at 3m, then up and right to block.
Test Pilot E5 6b/c
Eddie Cooper, Ali Moles Sept. 03
Climb flake left of The Drain, place good runners before making tricky moves over the bulge and up the slab above. More difficult for the vertically challenged.
The Drain 30m HVS 4c
H. Porter, C. Moore. 14/5/66.
Start - about 8m right of Escalator at a drainage chute. Climb straight up the slabs (usually wet) to bottom of corner. Delicately up for 6m to reach heather. Either finish route here and walk off to the left, or take a choice of lines to the top.
Asterisk * 25m E2 5b
L. Griffin. /71.
Some protection available but still bold. The crux uses a cunning hidden hold and is protected by a thread which is probably stronger than it looks! Start - just left of the small cave. Climb easily up left by obvious ramp line to a small ledge below a sho
Unforgiven ** 25m E4 6a
G. Murray, M. Rea. 5/93.
Start - as for Asterisk. Up the easy lower section of the ramp to the obvious hanging groove. Climb this and step right (along traverse of Asterisk Right Hand) past pocket to seam. Climb vertical seam using small pocket on left. From the top of the seam move diagonally right up steep slab to belay. Variation Purgatory 25m E5 6b R. Young, P. Hargreaves (Top-roped prior to first ascent). 19/7/96. Up to the top of the hanging groove as for Unforgiven but go straight up to below bulge. Strenuous bouldery climbing leads directly over the bulge and on up the slab to the grass ledge.
Last Rites ** 25m E5 6a
E. Cooper, A. Moles, R. Brown. 3/5/89.
Committing climbing up the rounded groove just right of the small cave gives a memorable undertaking - to top rope it is a joke so go for the big lead! Gain the groove and follow this to respite at first horizontal break (peg on right). Move left and up via two flakes to a bulge. Reach a good hold above the bulge and continue up the shallow rounded crack right of Asterisk Right Hand, with continuing interest.
Journey Into Life ** 25m E3 5c
G. Murray, I. McEwan. 5/10/86.
Not technically desperate but sustained, thoughtful protection and moves combine to give an excellent example of Mourne climbing. Start - right of Last Rites, 3m right of the small cave. Move right into a groove and up to obvious pocket. Make hard moves left and reach for a good hold (peg). Move up to flake and move right into groove and finish up easier ground to top.
8m right of the cave is an inverted Y crack which marks the start of the next two routes. The original route Yeni Gol starts up this crack but quickly scuttles right to avoid the steepness above. Quare Crack follows the obvious direct line.
Quare Crack * 30m E1 5b
G. Murray. 19/4/87.
Up the inverted Y crack and continue up obvious groove and crack to the top.
Destination Unknown E2 5b
Andy Marshall, Ross Jenkin 30/05/05.
Starting 2m right of Quare Crack, climb the crack until possible to reach a good pinch on the left facing wall. Climb up directly over this to a ledge. Arrange gear on the ledge and climb up the middle of the head wall until able to step right. Climb directly to the top (run out)
Yeni Gol * 36m HS 4a
J. Anderson, S. Webb. 15/11/64.
1) 12m Up the inverted Y crack. Then move up and right to ledge, continue to traverse right and up past green flakes to long ledge. Belay at either end of the ledge.
2) 24m From right hand edge of ledge step down and right then up to an overlap or up blocky wall and step right to overlap which is followed past The Boulder to the top (D).
Variations 24m VS (4bTTwo alternative interesting and bold finishes, at the same grade are - 2) a) from the left-hand edge of ledge up over bulge then left to go straight up the slabs to top. 2) b) from right-hand edge of ledge up blocky bulge, step left and up slabs, to the top.
Dreams of Distance 14m E2 5c
G. Murray, T. O'Dowd. 7/91.
Adequate protection can be arranged. Start - at right branch of inverted Y crack and at a horizontal dyke. Climb the dyke to a left sloping groove. Follow this to a mini-corner below small roof and swing out right to a sloping ledge. Finish up the green slab above.
Whole of the Moon 14m E2 6a
G. Murray, G. Henry. 8/91.
Start - as for Dreams of Distance. But traverse about 1m further right along the dyke to thread below a bulge. Make problematic moves and continue up the slab to a belay.
The next four routes start from the half-height ledge. The tier below this ledge has five recorded routes, D to S, but it is possible to climb anywhere at will so these are not detailed. The area is rather vegetated on the left but it is possible to find pleasant, clean lines to the half-height ledge.
The Boulder 18m D
R. R. Johnston, W. Harvey, G. Maxwell. 15/2/48.
Start - the left-hand edge of the ledge. Up past the boulder and right up a slab to the top.
Slanting Slipper 12m VS 4a
H. Kirkpatrick. /52.
Not technically hard but no protection with the crux near the top. Start - 2m left of the obvious Y Crack. Climb by a series of diagonal cracks until a hold on a rib, high up on the left is reached. Climb more easily to the top.
Y-Crack (Left-Hand) 12m HS 4a
T. Davidson, M. McMurray. 5/50.
Start - the Y Crack in the middle of the ledge. The original route follows the left-hand branch finishing up Slanting Slipper.
Y-Crack (Right-Hand) * 12m VS 4b
The recommended route with bomber protection at the crux. Follow right-hand branch and then directly up slab to the top.
Variation Travelling Tales 15m E1 (5b G. Murray, G. Henry. 8/91. A fingery but delicate start to the right-hand branch of Y Crack. Start - at the wall between Y Crack and Fingerbowl. Climb up the initial part of the wall with difficulty to gain a good foothold on the right. Pull up to the diagonal crack on the left of Y Crack (right-hand branch) and follow slab to the top.
Fingerbowl ** 22m S 3c
M. McMurray, T. Davidson. 5/50.
Rather unprotected but a gem of a climb. Start - at a crack at the right-hand end of the ledge. Up this to the fingerbowl then exit left by an exposed confidence move. There are a few lines in the slabby area between Fingerbowl and East Arete at D to VD harder on the right where it is steepens before joining the broad rib of East Arete This slabby area provides a useful descent which is easiest on the left along a ramp.
East Arete * 15m M
A nice climb on sound clean rock. Up the broad rib facing Summit Tor.
To the left of the Main Summit Tor is a small buttress with two obvious breaks running across it.
73 Main Street 10m El 5c
G. Murray, R. Bankhead. 5/88.
Start - at the slabby nose just left of where the lower break reaches the ground. Climb nose to break, step left and up wall above.
Little One 10m E1 5c)
G. Murray. 6/95.
Start - just right of the obvious nose at wide crack. Climb up the wall right of the rib to horizontal break and continue steeply up the wall above to rounded finish.
King of the Mountains 12m E2 5c/6a
G. Murray. 5/97.
Start - as for Little One. Up wall to horizontal break. Traverse break until able to move onto right-hand slab, continue right and up short vertical groove to top.
The One They Call the White Hair 10m VS 4c
G. Murray. 4/87.
Start - at a groove on the right-hand side of the buttress. Up right edge of slab and step left onto sloping ledge. Up to horizontal break and the short groove above of King of the Mountains.
The wall facing towards The Tower is split by a large shelf at one-third to half height, giving the following climbs described from left to right.
Yak-Yak 27m D
Start - the first prominent groove line is taken by Simplicity; Yak-Yak starts 3m to the left of this groove. Climb straight up the slabs to finish with a mantelshelf onto the top.
Simplicity ** 21m VD
J. R. White. 11/52.
A fine climb, virtually devoid of protection. According to tradition an ascent in the rain is best as it can be tricky when wet! Climbs the first prominent obvious groove.
The following climbs start right of Simplicity on the above mentioned shelf.
Athene * 21m VS 4b
P. Wilson. 20/9/60.
Technical difficulties at the start then delicate and bold. Start - the groove 1m to the right of Simplicity. Pull up and on to a slight recess, then straight up or move right to thin dyke and follow this. Finish easily up a slab above.
Miami Dolphin * 15m E2 5b
G. Murray, C. Cartwright. 3/10/86.
Start - 2m left of Ethical Backfire. Climb wall and slab above to join the thin dyke of Athene.
Only Fools and Horses. E3/4 6a
S. Moore 8/01/01 (Top roped prior to solo)
Climb the wall and slab between Ethical Backfire and Miami Dolphin, starting in the thin seam.
Ethical Backfire * 20m E2 5b
E. Cooper (Top roped some years previously). /85.
Reasonable protection and just worthy of the grade - at least depending on your interpretation of reasonable. Start - the two staggered grooves 5m to the right of Simplicity. Up the first groove and step right into the second groove. Variation Direct Finish * E2 (5b G. Murray. 5/96. A bit contrived but a more sustained outing than the original. Rather than stepping right climb directly up slab from the left-hand groove.
L. A. Raider 15m E1 5a
G. Murray, C. Cartwright. 3/10/86.
Start - 3m right of Ethical Backfire. Climb slanting shelf and then where it peters out straight up slab to the top. Variation Direct Finish E1/2 (5b G. Murray. 5/96. At start of slanting shelf gain first small ledge just above and climb straight up slab to top. An interesting short problem traverses the shelf right until possible to gain the ledge on Difficility.
Difficility * 12m HS 4b
Start - 15m right of Simplicity. A problem start up the crack/groove to ledge, then more easily to the top.
In addition there are further grooves on the right giving easy problems at about 'Difficult' standard and all along the south east side which is around the edge on the right although there are some harder ones. On this side the path steepens and becomes a grass gangway between the tor and flat rocks on the right. Opposite the flat rocks where the tor steepens there is a large heather ledge with a small boulder problem corner on its right. Just right of this is a white topped slab which provides the short solo --
Summers End 10m E1 5b
G. Murray, B. James. 23/8/95.
Climb up small edges and scoops just right of centre. Further right on the south-east side of the tor overlooking the road and Kinnahalla there is a white shelf on the left-hand end of the face.
Ancientcy * 15m VD
Climb to the left-hand end of the shelf and step right and up a groove.
Modernity * 18m VD
P. Gribbon, B. White, D. Sloan. 21/3/54.
Start - 5m right of Ancientcy. Climb up a curved layback to the shelf where the white nose is climbed.
Touchdown 12m E1 5c
G. Murray, B. James. 23/8/95.
The words job and squeeze spring to mind. Start - between Modernity and Superbowl below a thin groove. Up this thin groove to stand on horizontal break (difficult). On up the wall on small holds and the white nose above.
Superbowl * 12m HVS 5a
G. Murray, C. Cartwright. 3/10/86.
A fine, thoughtful little trip but forget about runners. Start - 3m right of Modernity. Up to groove then left to good pocket. Make a hard move to reach next small pocket and follow groove to top.
Sudden Impact * 12m HVS 5b
C. Cartwright, G. Murray. 3/10/86.
Protection where it counts. Start - 3m right of Superbowl at overhanging groove. Climb wall to good crack. Layback up crack to easier ground above.
The Man with No Name 15m VS 4c
G. Murray. 19/4/87.
Climb takes the pocked groove 4m right of Sudden Impact.
Scissorshand 15m E1 5b
G. Murray, G. Henry. 8/91.
Start - 30m below and to the right of Man With No Name, below heather ledge. Climb the flakes on the wall to the ledge at mid height, then climb the bulging groove above.
South East Tor
The south-eastern end of Hen finishes with the large South East Tor and the smaller Little Cock Tor with the stony South Gully separating the two. There are short boulder problems on the north west corner facing Summit Tor. Further right the southern end of the South East Tor is formed of long easy slabs. Most of the routes (apart from the first two) are right again around the corner in South Gully.
Long Climb * 60m M
A meandering route with the best line taking a central line up the slabs but many variations are possible.
Jumper * 60m D
Start - 5m left of the bottom of the gully. Follow a deep clean crack, then keep right and follow the broad rib to the top.
Farce Found 27m S
C. Torrans, I. Brown. 19/3/67.
Vegetated, crumbly rock and not recommended. 8m up from the bottom of the gully is a crack to the right of a nose-shaped rock. Layback up this crack onto a slab and on up to belay.
Volcano 25m VD
Although green at first gives a clean airy finish. Good protection. Start - 20m up from bottom of the gully at a blocky fault/crack line leaning slightly rightwards. Up vegetation and climb this broken crack line. The vegetation at the base of Volcano defines the left-hand edge of a compact rock buttress and on its right-hand side by the blind diedre/groove of Morgan. A gently rising left-trending dyke and a right leaning groove meet on the ground 6m left of the blind diedre/groove of Morgan.
Sunset ** 35m HS 4b
C. Moore, F. Devlin, J. Brown. 30/11/62. Michelin ZX T. Hawkins & party June 1981 No need to worry about getting lost as there are so many variations you must be on the right route. The best combination is to take the VS variation on the first pitch finishing with the slab variation - not hard climbing but virtually devoid of comforting protection. Start: 2m left of this junction and 8m left of the blind diedre of Morgan.
1) 27m Move delicately up and left on the slightly rising dyke to a mini corner which leads to a ledge on the left. Either step 2m left and up on pocks or step up and right to a foot ledge and continue straight up a crack and small pockets (VS) to a boulder belay. An easier variation start, known as Michelin ZX, takes a flake/crack 3m left of the normal route.
2) 8m From the boulder belay there are three possibilities: a) the easiest is to move right and finish as for Morgan. b) good but short is straight up the steep little headwall using small hidden holds over the lip (4c). c) or the boldest with no protection, move down and left, then up a steep slab (VS (4b)).
Messing with the Kid * 15m E2 5b
G. Murray, T. Mercer, B. James. 2/9/95.
Start - at the above mentioned junction and the base of the right leaning groove. Climb up onto slab using small pocket and flake to gain horizontal break. Pull up onto slab above (hard), then gain small pocket and on to the large pocket above. Belay at the boulder of Sunset.
Morgan * 30m VD
G. Earnshaw, E and T. Morgan.
Takes the obvious blind diedre in the middle of the face. Start - behind the boulders. 1) 15m Ascend the crumbly groove delicately. 2) 15m Move right up groove (better) or climb straight up (easier). Z/52 Last of the Summer Wine 27m VS 4bTTake the crumbly, slab (easily avoidable) but with a delicate finish by either line on the slab above the ledge just right of Morgan.
Keyhole Crack * 27m VD
Start - at gap between the boulders right of Morgan. Ascend slab moving right under jutting prow and through mini-notch to ledge. Take the right-hand, rightward-trending crack above. Variations a) Ascend crack in slab between the two jutting prows to ledge. b) Gain the mini-notch directly. c) From the ledge the left-hand rightward trending crack gives an easier finish.
Right of this are three little lines - the left-hand one, 8m right of the boulders, is Ladder (M) taking a straight line of knobbles, Oslo (D) taking the twin grooves on the right and a prominent groove just left of Oslo goes at VD.
Little Cock Tor
On the side of this tor facing towards Cock Mountain there are short problems between its left-hand side and a steep wall. The first route is located on the steep wall where it rises to the highest point.
The Boys of Summer 10m E1 5c
G. Murray, T. O'Dowd. 5/93.
Well protected. Up to the obvious bulging crack near the left of the wall and climb it.
The Age of Innocence 8m HVS 5b
G. Murray, T. O'Dowd. 5/93.
Up the short, deep groove to grass ledge and wall above (crux). add comment
The next deep groove right gives a short problem at 4b.
The Outsider 10m E2 5b/c
G. Murray, A. McMullan. 6/95.
Start - at the right edge of the face below a quartz knob sticking out about half-way up. Climb easily up to knob, step onto it and delicately leftwards onto slab. Continue up slab with interest. The slanting groove continuing out left from the quartz knob is 4b.