Monday 27 December 2010

Ice climbing in The Lake District. Low Water Beck. December 21st 2010.

Well, Christmas has been and gone and albeit temporarily (we hope) the absolutely fantastic winter conditions too! There have been a lot of winter ascents done recently on many of The Lake District's mountain streams. Ice climbers have been out in profusion - everywhere!

Iain and Kirstin from Kendal Mountaineering Services were out Tuesday last week and decided to take a look at Low Water Beck - a fine little grade 3/4 ice climb near Coniston.

Some Lake District winter climbs are well known about and hence get a lot of traffic. One wonders - should you get up early to get on the route first - or leave it til a little later - and get on the route when the crowds have gone?

Anyway, after a not early start we eventually arrived at the foot of the main section of Low Water Beck at around mid-day. This first shot shows two people on the main pitch and yes - for those in the know, the lower chap was wearing a Whillans harness and he was also climbing with straight shafted knuckle bashers as well. He must have been hard as nails!

However, what you don't see in shot one is the pair who were in front of us and, as there were a total of six people either on or about to get on to the ice climbing route, we elected to check out some short ice cliffs about 300M to the right of the main falls and come back later when things had quietened down - a good move!

In shot two, Iain climbs up a rather thin grade three pitch to set up a top rope so that Kirstin could have a go. In places here, the ice was only a few cms thick so, it was very delicate climbing. Once at the top, Iain set up a belay consisting of three warthogs and a bulldog considering this necessary as rock anchors were miles away and the turf was only moderately frozen - not surprising really as over the last three weeks there has only been one period of freeze/thaw.

We enjoyed a few hours of climbing on this short ice wall and in shot three Kirstin enjoys a slightly thicker line of ice. Kirstin was climbing using Iain's DMM Flys which are excellent T rated axes for all round use in any winter climbing scenario.

During this time Iain was watching the foot of Low Water Beck and had noticed that no-one else had walked in - in fact most people were leaving.

So, at about 3pm, we wandered over to see what was what and we could see only one person who was about to disappear up the top pitch.

The main part of the Low Water Beck ice climb consists firstly of an easy angled scramble up to the start of the main pitch. At this point the grade three summer scramble of Low Water Beck breaks out right but the ice climber is confronted by a 70 foot pitch rearing up into a groove leading to the top stance below the final pitch.

Despite the battering this grade three pitch must have had over the previous four days, there was still plenty of fine ice and the picks of Iain's Rebels went much better into this ice than that of the previous venue - but of course here, the ice was at least 20x thicker!

The pitch was very pleasant climbing; and Iain was soon up to the stance below the final pitch - having placed a few ice screws along the way. He had to be careful though, not to dislodge any ice on to Kirstin down below.

In shot five, Kirstin has ascended the main pitch and is climbing the easy groove above to Iain's stance.

By this time, the light was fading rapidly!

In the last shot, Iain climbs rapidly up the final pitch having gone under and behind the boulder on the right through a fine little ice cave.

The grade four section of the Low Water Beck Ice Climb is the unbroken rib going up immediately to the right of Iain. Even though it looked fine from below, there was a waterfall running down the middle of it and Iain wasn't convinced it was safe. Also, because it was rapidly getting dark (and Kirstin was complaining of cold hands) he chose to belt up the easier l/h gully and belay Kirstin up from the top of the gully whilst attached to two very secure warthogs.

A final short scramble brought us to the head of the main pitch of Low Water Beck and by now it was almost dark. It was a shame we were unable to link to the two short but pleasant ice pitches between where we were and Low Water, but we were very satisfied with what we had done on our ice climbing afternoon.

You can view all of the pictures from this afternoon here.

No comments: