Tuesday 22 April 2014

Guided Scrambling Days in the Lake District. Great Gable, April 18th 2014.

Well, the Easter Weekend has been a busy one for Iain, great weather and such a variety in what he did over the weekend too; and it really couldn't have started off in a better place!

Iain was contacted at short notice last week by Rob Harper who wanted to get out either Rock Climbing or Scrambling on Great Gable - one of The Lake District's most famous mountains at the head of the remote but extremely scenic Wasdale Valley.

Iain suggested heading to an area known as The Napes on the south west side of Great Gable where there are a number of great scrambles and rock climbs - it's a bit of a walk up from Wasdale Head, but well worth it!

The walk takes you up towards Styhead Pass which connects between Borrowdale and Wasdale. Three quarters of the way up this - one heads off up left under Lower Kern Knotts Crag on The Climbers Traverse path leading towards the southern end of buttresses of The Napes and Tophet Wall. It is only when you arrive under this buttress that the famous pinnacle - Napes Needle becomes apparent. Rob fancied a go at climbing this 20 m high pinnacle, but first we decided to scramble up the polished cleft between it and Needle Ridge in an act known as "Threading the Needle" - photo one sees Rob climbing the cleft to join Iain.

The first time Iain climbed Napes Needle in the late 1980's, it was a slightly polished V Diff route. Both he & a mate literally scampered up & down it in rock shoes soloing all the way - put it this way, he doesn't remember abseiling it!

However, twenty five years on things have changed markedly and the route is very polished and now graded Hard Severe. Certainly, the classic route via the Wasdale Crack which we climbed on this occasion felt tricky because of the polish and in big boots too!

Iain left Rob at the foot of the climb and was able to place a few running belays as he climbed up to the foot of the main crack splitting the face. Above this point, only massive Camming Devices would have afforded any protection and Iain didn't have any of those. It was a case of jamming a boot in the crack and trying to move up holding the r/h edge of the crack without falling out before moving right on to the upper face where there were a few better footholds to be found. Falling out of the crack would have probably resulted in hitting the ground and/or Rob who was belaying! Not ideal!

Photo two shows Rob attached to a Stacked Abseil system - ready to follow Iain on the descent from the abseil tat just below the final pedestal. Unfortunately we didn't climb this - the final ten feet of the route - as it was just too tricky & polished and Iain had Rob's safety to put first.

Still, Rob enjoyed the climb up on to the shoulder of Napes Needle; and the abseil technique all the way down into the gully on the west side of the pinnacle was new to him, so, it was still worth the effort!

We climbed across the foot of the next buttress - Eagles Nest Ridge, to a nice grassy patch underneath Spinx Ridge where we enjoyed Lunch and a chat with a fellow scrambler who was scouting out the Climbers Traverse path.

Above us were the options of a number of routes leading to the summit of Great Gable - Arrowhead Ridge - a 3 star Grade 2 Scramble or Sphinx Ridge, 2 star, grade 2. Rob liked the sound of the 3 star route and Iain guided him up the climbing part of this which, after some climbing that would be quite serious in wet conditions, culminated in a very fine exposed traverse along the crest of the ridge to where it widens (photo three) Truly exhilarating stuff!

Whilst we were on the final section of Arrowhead Ridge, four Para-gliders appeared around The Napes - it really looked like great fun as they gracefully soared & swooped above us encased in what looked like sleeping bags (photo four) All of the photos give an indication of what a lovely day it was - hot sun, no wind and dry rock! Rob couldn't have picked a better day for some guided Climbing & Scrambling in The Lake District!

From here, we made our way over to Pinnacle Ridge - a final and pleasant Grade 2 scramble leading to the top of Westmorland's Crag which is only some 100 m from Great Gable's summit. After a brief stop there, we made our way back via Styhead Pass to Wasdale whilst thoroughly enjoying the great views in all directions.

Rob paid £160 for his guided Scrambling Day in The Lake District with Iain on some of the areas most famous climbing & scrambling routes. The price includes the provision of helmets & harnesses and well as instruction by an experienced Mountaineering Instructor. The price is £160 for one or two persons - so well worth it if you want to have a challenging & exhilarating day out with a partner or friend. Contact us here to book your guided Scrambling or Scrambling Skills Training Course in The Lake District. We look forward to working with you.

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