Tuesday 15 October 2013

Guided Scrambling in The Lake District. Slab & Notch Route, Pillar Rock. 1st October 2013

October got off to a good start for Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services when he joined Steve Smith in Wasdale for a fantastic mountaineering adventure in one of the Lake Districts remotest corners.

Steve is currently bagging the English Nuttall Peaks. These are described as any mountain in England & Wales over 2000 feet high with a drop of at least 50 feet on all sides.

Our objective today was Pillar Rock - an imposing buttress set high above Ennerdale in Western Lake District. Pillar Rock is over 660 feet high from its base to its highest point (High Man) and is home to some classic hard scrambling and some of the longest climbing routes in the area. Getting to the crag is no easy feat with it being at least a four mile walk in from the nearest parking!

Photo one looks back along the route we chose to get there and this was by way of the traverse path coming in from Black Sail Pass where the path leaves the ridge ascending to Pillar just above Green Cove. This view is from near Robinson's Cairn looking across Hind Cove to distant Kirk Fell and Great Gable.

Looking in the opposite direction one is confronted by the enormity of the east face of Pillar Rock rising ahead. The route on takes you across Pillar Cove before ascending on to the Shamrock Traverse which rises to a small buttess overlooking the upper part of Pillar Rock seen here in photo two.

Behind Steve can be seen our objective - the summit of High Man - in fact the cairn at the summit can be seen just right of the top of the deep gap (Jordan Gap). Slab & Notch route crosses behind Steve - in fact the "slab" can be seen behind his right shoulder and the rest of the route goes pretty much above his head!

Slab & Notch Route is described in the Cicerone "Scrambles in The Lake District: North" Guide as a grade 3,3 star scrambling route. The scramble starts from the gully below Jordan gap and ascends 6 feet to the top of "the slab" which would be rather nasty when wet. At the foot of the slab a fault line traverses above a drop across to the foot of the climb to "The Notch".

Photo three sees Steve climbing towards Iain at the Notch with "The Slab" in the background. The usual climbing route to The Notch was very polished and Iain avoided this by climbing the corner to the left and then "bridging" across higher up back on to The Notch.

From here a short traverse around the corner leads to an easy climb on good holds into a welcoming bay behind a big flake and then from there a slightly exposed descent to the right leads in to the gully which is followed to the top of Pillar rock by way of a ramp on its left. On emerging at the summit of High Man, we contemplated the abseil in to Jordan Gap which is perfectly feasible with a doubled 50m climbing rope. However, the wind had risen to such an extent that Iain decided that a retreat by our ascent route was advisable.

Our final photo from this post about Guided Scrambling Courses in The Lake District sees Steve ascending towards the summit of Pillar with Pillar Rock below and the floor of Ennerdale beyond.

Rising in the sunlight on the opposite side of Ennerdale is the slope leading to the summit of High Stile which overlooks Buttermere and way in the distance can be seen Grasmoor and Eel Crags.

Our descent of Slab & Notch Route was accomplished relatively quickly with Steve being belayed by Iain as he down climbed the various sections. The route is clearly very popular as is evident by the amount of "polish" which will make it a serious and somewhat dubious proposition in the wet.

Once back at the rucksacks it was nice to take in the summit of Pillar as a finale to the day before descending the ridge to Black Sail Pass and on to Wasdale Head. The weather during the day had been most "atmospheric" with many unusual cloud formations caused by the strong south easterly wind sweeping the area. At least the day had remained dry throughout and we had been sheltered from the wind though our choice of venue.

Steve enjoyed his Guided Scrambling Day in The Lake District with Iain who may well be contacted again to assist Steve in getting to the summit of The Cobbler in Scotland next year. In the meantime, we wish him well with his goal of summiting all of the Nuttalls.

As well as guided Scrambling, we also run Scrambling Skills Training Courses in The Lake District should you wish to learn the skills to go out  and have a day such as this for yourselves. Contact us to find out more about these courses and read a recent training course report here. We look forward to working with you.

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