After a few days with little motivation due to some typically grey and damp Lakeland weather we decided that it was time for some proper exercise. Our plan did involve cheating slightly by starting at Honister Pass (350m) but then it would be a good walk ticking five Wainwrights, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable and Base Brown. We were keen to make the most of the weather, with the potential for views into Buttermere, Ennerdale, Borrowdale and from the top of Great Gable Wasdale so we started late as the clouds were forecast to lift.
Ennerdale Water and Crummock Water from Brandreth
We followed the path next to the fence directly up from the national trust car park to the summit of Grey Knotts, it was a bit of a slog but you can’t complain if 45 minutes of exercise puts you at 700m. Here we found a sheltered spot overlooking Buttermere and the High Stile range and had our lunch. Brandreth is a short relatively level walk from Grey Knotts. It is excellently positioned for views into both Buttermere and Ennerdale. From Brandreth we got our first views of Great Gable; its summit was in the cloud but I was optimistic about the clouds continuing to lift.
Ennerdale from Green Gable
A short descent and slightly longer climb took us to the summit of Green Gable. Wainwright comments about how many people cross Green Gable on their way to Great Gable and how it literally lives in the shadow of its bigger neighbour. I was impressed with the views of Gable Crag (this contains Engineers Slab VS, a Hard Rock route) and again the head of Ennerdale. From here we descended 60m to Windy Gap which we last visited with Brad and Kristen in severe winter conditions
Us on the summit of Great Gable
The final climb up the summit of Great Gable involved a climb of about 150m. The path whist rocky and steep was in good condition, Wainwright recommends this as the best of the routes to and from the top of Great Gable. From the top we could see the familiar sights of Wasdale. Scafell was clearly visible with it huge crags but the summit of Scafell Pike was in the clouds. To reach Base Brown we had to retrace our route back to Green Gable. When we reached Windy Gap we were asked to help a couple of coast to coast walkers to get to Honister youth hostel. They had kept going too far up the valley and had walked off their map. We told them of our route of ascent and used their camera to take a photo of our map just in case they needed it.
Base Brown was a pleasant surprise, it has views west across the hanging valley of Gillercombe to Gillercombe Buttress and views east into Seathwaite. As we continued north the ridge ended and we followed an interesting path down before heading cross-country to cross Sour Milk Gill, head past Seathwaite Slabs and over ‘the last hill’ to reach a point overlooking Honister. All that was left was the descent to the car and then a stop at Gatescarth Farm for large well-deserved ice creams!
Bob setting off on the first pitch of Gillercombe Buttress
After missing the previous Wednesday Bob, Lauren, Penny and I were keen to get something done. The weather was set fair and so we decided on the Classic Rock
route Gillercombe Buttress
(S). Lauren drove us in her shiny new (2nd hand) BMW 1 series and just before 6pm we were heading south from Honister Pass climbing the slopes of Grey Knott toward the hanging valley of Gillercombe. This was a valley that I had not visited before. Despite being only 30 minutes from the road it felt remote and high with Green Gable at the head of the valley and Sour Milk Gill draining down to Seathwaite.
The route itself is a pleasant but long route climbing a rib just right of Gillercombe Gully, which forms the left end of the crag. We spilt into two pairs, Penny seconding Bob and Lauren following me. This was Penny’s first climb where she was not climbing with me! Bob and Penny went first and I got to share some belays with Penny whilst she was belaying Bob and I was belaying Lauren, it was a little strange. We climbed the route in five pitches, 30m, 40m, 20m, 40m and 40m, this left a scramble to the top. Whilst route finding was never difficult (follow the crampon scratches) it took an interesting line with a couple of tricky moves (for severe), in particular the leftward traverse on our second pitch and the start of our final pitch.
Penny and Lauren
By the time we reached the top it was 10pm and so we needed a purposeful decent to reach a hostelry before closing time. We reached the car at 10:50 (it was nearly dark) and despite it being a few minutes after eleven by the time we reached the Riverside Bar they took one look at us and decided that we needed some refreshment before the drive home.
The View of Buttermere from Buckstone How
The forecast for today was better than yesterday. However strong north-easterly winds were forecast so were looked for south-westerly facing crags. Buckstone How fitted the criteria with the bonus of a shortish level walk in.
Before we set out however there is just the story of Penny’s phone. Yesterday when descending in the rain a pair of trousers got wet and muddy and so on returning home they were placed in the washing machine. This morning with the sun shining it seemed a good time to do some washing so said machine was put on. About five minutes later Penny could not find her phone… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Luckily I had a spare old phone and her sim card still works (her old phone is very clean now).
After crossing the slate-scree of death (a nerve inducing pile of precariously balanced large blocks of quarry rubbish) we found that the only other pair at the crag were on the route I wanted to do, Cleopatra (HVS ***). Instead we decided to do the two pitch Groove Two (HVS **) first and then see what we fancied afterwards. The first pitch was mostly a scramble, however, towards the top there was a move that involved smearing on the very smooth rock. Considering this pitch did not merit a technical grade in the guidebook I was a little surprised. It was however a good warm-up for what was to come.
The second pitch was where the difficulties lay. It was a steep corner crack. The crux was a very smooth section which had tenuous smears for feet and very little for the hands. It was well protected and whilst not as long as yesterday’s crux pitch it was over 25 metres. The holds improved towards the top and there was even a rest on the left before the final few moves. There was a lot of loose slate about at the top and it took some time to find a secure belay that did not risk knocking rocks down the route onto Penny.
She again climbed it comfortably but did not seem to enjoy it particularly. ‘I don’t like cracks’ it was a shame as Cleopatra was an exposed face climb, rather than being stuck in a corner. She now she says that she enjoyed it in retrospect (type 2 pleasure). Despite our careful planning we were not able to avoid the wind entirely and so we decided to call it a day after some of us got a little cool belaying some of us taking a while on the crux pitch.
Our return route took us over the top of the scree, this was less nerve-wracking and a route we could use in future.
One thing that has been happening recently is a lot of dropping things. This started at Buckbarrow with me dropping a glove, and Penny spectacularly catching it with her left hand whilst belaying with her right. At Wallowbarrow I dropped another glove and Penny dropped a nut (and almost hit Ian). Yesterday Penny dropped half a quick-draw and finally today I dropped two large nuts off the racking crab. So far we have recovered all of this with very little hassle. But it is a becoming a bit of a habit and one that we did not have before this season. On the other hand we are moving quickly and confidently on multipitch routes.