The plan was formulated midweek, allow Thursday’s rain to saturate the new snow and then hope that the cooler weather on Thursday and Friday night would freeze it hard enough for climbing on Saturday morning. Whilst things did not go exactly according to plan they were close enough to make it a worthwhile trip.Continue reading
The best weather of the year so far coincided with Speech Day at school. That meant that our activities could start after 2pm and a lunchtime glass of wine. A rough outline of a plan had formed whilst trying to get to sleep on Friday night. We would use Saturday afternoon to walk up Scafell, climb a route in the evening, bivouac overnight before climbing on Scafell East Buttress on Sunday morning.Penny was convinced in the merit of my plan and at about 16:30 we left Brackenclose carrying rather heavy bags bound for Mickledore, the col between Scafell and Scafell Pike. We split the ascent into four sections: up to the ford, up to a large rock before the Pike path splits off, to the Woolworth boulder and then finally to the col. Each section involved about two hundred meters of ascent and took us about half an hour. At the Woolworth boulder we collected three litres of water, unsure of whether there would be a good water supply at our bivi site.
At Mickledore we left our bivi gear and donned our harnesses and helmets. We used Rake’s Progress to reach the foot of Botterill’s Slab (VS 4c). This was exposed and very slippery in places. There was one section that involved crossing some green, loose rocks that we protected with the rope. As we had walked up the valley we had seen two pairs on our intended route, which was in shadow. By the time we reached it the lower of these pairs were on the second pitch and the sun was on the slab.
The route itself was a great line, a long narrow slab with the best holds out by the arête on the left. The first pitch was a little wet but the main second pitch was great. A textured slab about 25 metres long with some good cracks for protection. The amount of air beneath my heels was exhilarating. The final pitch was a bit of a disappointment, it was a wet dirty chimney followed by some loose flakes. However the second pitch makes the climb. We had been a little concerned about the descent to Mickledore, it is mostly a scramble but the lest few metres involve down climbing Broad Stand, a notorious diff that is one of WMRT’s blackspots. We scrambled most of the way down and then headed left (looking out) right above Mickledore where a short abseil reunited us with our bags. We had started the route at 19:30, topped out at 21:10 and got back to our bags about 21:45. We headed down about 300m (horizontally) towards Great Moss, where a small enclosure had been built on a flat and dry patch of grass. This would be home for the night (see photo). A hasty (and well deserved) tuna and cous cous was consumed before retiring to bed with a good view of Jupiter, the Moon and some of the brightest stars. In the morning we woke to see East Buttress in full sunshine. Others had the two-hour walk in to reach it but we had a head start and after a five-minute walk we were under Mickledore Grooves (VS 4c). The start proved to be the crux and after a few difficult moves an easy rightward ramp was reached. This led to a groove that in turn led to another groove. Moving between these was also a little tricky and felt exposed. Penny had a difficult time starting this pitch as her leader had placed his first piece of gear to the side of the climb. This left the start unprotected, instead she climbed, and swore at, a harder section to the right of the normal start. The second pitch was fun, climbing good rock in an excellent situation up a slab and then a groove. I managed to reach a belay but only on rope stretch. Another scramble descent and abseil was followed by a trip down to fetch the bags. By 11.00 we were eating our lunch as other teams were arriving to climb. A hot but quick descent was only punctuated by a stop to cool our feet in the beck just before the ford.
Given the amount of time and effort required to walk in and out I think our plan worked well. Scafell in the evening was magical but I doubt that it would be possible to get more than one route in the sunshine. The East Buttress in the morning was also great, and if a party had more stamina it would be possible to move onto Pike’s Crag for the afternoon!
Brad and Kristen are up for 24 hours and the weekend respectively. Whilst Penny and Kristen went for a walk up Middle Fell, Brad and I headed to Scafell to try to get a few winter routes.
An early start saw us set off from the parking by the campsite at 7:40 planning to get to the snow before there was any chance of it softening. A brisk walk saw us heading up brown tongue and then gearing up below Red Gill (I/II). After the initial snow slope we climbed an inviting icefall. I chose the left-hand side which was a more gentle angle than the right-hand side that Brad climbed. After his recent time in the Alps Brad was very confident on the ice.
The rest of Red Gill took us to Lord’s Rake and a traverse to the start of Deep Gill Integrale (III). The first hundred metres was an easy gully that became increasingly exposed. We started pitching as the ledge got narrow and Brad took the lead for the first pitch. I then lead through continuing along the ledge until overlooking Great Chimney, there was then an interesting mixed section up a flake and slab. Rope drag was becoming significant so I belayed and Brad then led through with a very exposed move round to the right to easier ground and the summit.
Keen to get another route in we dropped down Deep Gill for fifty metres and then turned right. I was intending to climb Old Professor’s Chimney (II) but we were tempted into New Professor’s Chimney (II/III). It was not in very good condition with a section of rock where ice would have made life easier and more secure. From the Jordan Gap we traversed round to the left back to the summit and our bags.
A quick, 75 minute descent saw us back at the road at 1pm. We were both very happy with getting three interesting routes into a morning. Brad then had to get a train (or bus) back south for a flight to China tomorrow.
Yesterday’s good forecast had me hoping for more blue skies, however the weather gods were not cooperating and it was snowing gently as I headed up Brown Tongue. My plan had been to climb on Pikes Crag but as I headed up the path the area to the right of the Shamrock was looking very good, with plenty of ice some of which was easy angled enough for me to climb.
I started up Direct Route until its final icefall where I headed left onto Easy Gully. There was plenty of new snow about but it was only 20cm deep and my crampons and tools were able to grip into the old neve below. There were three sections of easy angled ice which took tools and crampons mostly first time. These were linked by sections of snow. When I got to Lords Rake I met a couple of climbers who were intending to climb Deep Gill. I had already decided that it was not the place to be and they agreed and followed me over to Pikes Crag after having tried the step at the start.
On Pikes Crag I climbed C Gully, it had an interesting step at the start (stiff grade II) but after this it became a grade one snow slope for the next 150m. I descended Long Gully but by this time the amount of snow that had fallen was making some slopes too avalanche prone. I started a small slide but since my crampons and tools were in the hard snow underneath it just confirmed my opinion that enough was enough and it was time to head home.
The fantastic weather continued today and Penny and I were joined by Bob for a winter ascent of Scafell. I read the guidebook last night and had thoughts about any of Easy Gully on the Shamrock, Deep Ghill, Lord’s Rake and or the Western Traverse. The idea was for a winter mountaineering day, we took a rope and small rack but the plan was not to use them.
We left the car in the layby opposite the campsite and walked up to the Woolworth Boulder via Brown Tongue. There was a few cm of soft new snow but on the whole it was just fantastic neve above 700m. We climbed up to Lord’s Rake and then used the Western Traverse to reach Deep Ghill. Penny enjoyed herself and continued up Deep Ghill to the summit ridge. Bob and I found a gully on the left, which had one interesting ice step at the top. Having consulted a guidebook I think it was Old Professor’s Chimney (II).
After a brief consultation we decided the we’d tag the summit of Scafell and the descend Green How. On the way down we scoped out the exit from Lord’s Rake for future reference. It was a very quick descent, a little slippy underfoot but with poles it was not too bad. Penny and I even found a good bum-sliding snow patch. Just after passing the FRCC hut Bob’s pager went with a call out further up the valley so we quickly headed to the car and gave him a lift before heading home.