Saturday 23 January 2016

Winter Climbing in The Lake District. Wednesday, January 20th 2016.

Last Wednesday, The Lake District was still enjoying the Winter weather that had arrived the previous Saturday. However, a lot of snow had gone at lower levels despite MWIS predicting that freezing levels  would remain at valley floor levels through until Tuesday.

Wednesday saw Iain & Nigel head  into Deepdale with the intention of checking out what was available on Greenhow End - that's the buttress in the middle of photo one.

There are some nine winter climbs listed on or around this buttress with grades ranging from II through to VI'. Our objective for the day was to try a couple of winter climbs on the north side of the buttress - either Deepdale Gully or Central Gully- both grade III. These can be seen above & right of Nigel - in photo two. Central gully is the more obvious line at the head of the scree cone.
It was surprising how long it took us to walk in to the foot of the crag - best part of 2 & a half hours from the Land Rover, parked at Bridgend at the foot of Deepdale. The walk in is 3km and height gain is 420 metres so, it's a fair walk in - but this, we knew! What we thought was that this high level & north facing crag would have routes that were in condition; and the nearer we got, the more it became apparent that they weren't!

Whilst from a distance, there looked to be a lot of snow, on Greenhow End, there wasn't! Nor was it neve either, just wind-slab with a light crust on top. There was ice, but that wasn't to be found in any quantity, so when Nigel offered to lead the first pitch of Central Gully, Iain was quite happy to let him!

Photo three sees Nigel at the top of the first pitch just below the first crux. Below here, the gully had some snow which would neither support weight nor the use of ice axes. There was no frozen turf. It was what should have been an easy grade II gully, but in truth, it was just a "thrutch".

Iain arrived at Nigel's stance and then moved up to try the steeper ice above. This would have been a great little pitch in good conditions, but again, there was little ice and what was there disintegrated with a blow from Iain's Rebels. At this point, we decided to call it a day - with the climbing at least!
We moved out rightwards on to the buttress and moved up & across further right to easier ground before deciding that really, the rope wasn't necessary either.

The day wouldn't be completely lost, but could be put to good use as a bit of mountaineering and winter walking. After all, despite the crappy climbing conditions, it really was a beautiful day with great views in all directions.

Photo four sees Nigel as he reaches the top of the steepest part of our snowy scramble amid rock & turf. At this point, Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pikes had become visible over the top of Deepdale Hause as well as the top of Falcon Crag - now that's supposed to be a place well worth visiting for some higher grade Lake District Winter Climbing Routes!

Just above here, the angle relented and we were soon on the top of Greenhow End.
The question now was how to get down again. There were a number of options - walk up right to get over to Hart Crag and then descend back to Bridgend via Hartsop Above How (the ridge running from left to right in the middle of  photo five) or descend via "The Step" into Link Cove and then drop down into at the head of Deepdale.

The latter was the quicker option; and time was getting on!

The final photo from this post about an "attempted" Winter Climbing Day in The Lake District sees Nigel as we arrived back in Mossydale. Greenhow End is the prominent buttress just right of centre; and Link Cove is the valley to it's left. All we had now was an hours walk back to the Land Rover.

As far as Winter Climbing went, it was disappointing. A lack of snow & consolidation/freeze thaw meant that there was no climbing worth speaking of; and after this weekend of mild temperatures; well, the chances are what there was has disappeared altogether now. However, it was a day of quality exercise and views and we went on to enjoy a few beers at The Brotherswater Inn on our way back to Kendal; and later, we also got to enjoy Ju's fabulous Fish Pie.

Thanks to Nigel for his company on the hill and to Nigel and Ju for entertaining & feeding us later on.

All in all, a quality day then.....really!

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