Pillar from Wasdale

28 02 2013

Wasdale has the reputation of being a real pain to get to, and yeah, people are correct, but for me living on the west coast of Cumbria it isn’t too bad, so today I decided to go and revisit this amazing valley.

The weather continued to be fantastic for today and as I drove alongside the shore of Wastwater I couldn’t wait to get my boots on and get cracking. It was quite quiet around the Wasdale Head and there wasn’t even the usual hordes heading to bag Scafell Pike. I was to head the other way, into the Mosedale Valley and up onto Pillar.

My route started out the back of the Wasdale Head Inn and then starts to gain height along side Mosedale Beck. The route then got steeper as we spent about an hour or so climbing up to Looking Stead. From here a series of rises slowly brings you onto the summit plateau of Pillar. The views from Pillar are some of the best in the national park, and today they were just incredible. We opted to hunker down behind the summit shelter to have a bite to eat and to enjoy the sights.

We descended down the rocky ridge on Pillar’s south eastern slopes to Wind Gap before climbing up the easy slopes to the summit of Scoat Fell. Steeple is a small summit that sits off the edge of Scoat Fell, and can only really be obtained on this route by doing a ‘there and back’, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity especially on a day like today. Once on the summit of Steeple me and Lexi took a moment to chill out and enjoy the views down into Ennerdale.

After heading back over the summit of Scoat Fell we climbed the impressive summit ridge of Red Pike and then proceeded to descend down to Dore Head. I had already opted not to climb over Yewbarrow today so took the opportunity to descend via the DoreHead Screes, a route I had not used before. I regretted this decision. After my accident in Chamonix in September 2011 I have a small fear of loose boulders, and this route was covered in thousands of them. Yeah, scree is loose, but some of these rocks were huge. I managed to negotiate my way down, with Lexi a little anxious in toe, and was hugely relieved when I reached the sanctuary of the grass at the bottom. I can safely say I will never descend by this route again!

The day was not ruined, it was merely spiced up a little! We got back to the car and drove a couple of miles back up the valley to a spot on the side of Wastwater where Lexi enjoyed a little swim! Good Stuff!


Winter Climbing on Catstycam & Helvellyn

27 02 2013

Throughout winter I have been working in an Outdoor shop in Keswick and this has been great to save me from sitting on my tod at home, however it is when we have weather like we are currently having in the Lakes that it gets a tad painful! It gets worse when you get customers coming into the shop (when they should probably be outside enjoying the weather) saying ‘Cor, must be bad working on a day like today!’….Yes it is…. Sunday night saw myself and a colleague from the shop head up to Brown Cove Crags and tackle a great Grade 1 gully in the darkness, and this managed to keep the inner outdoor demons inside me at bay, but I needed another fix, and a bigger one! Two days off together, result, Kelvyn is free, better result….lets get climbing!

After deliberation we decided to head up towards Helvellyn to tackle some of the classic routes that the crag (Red Tarn Cove) holds. We set off from the car at Greenside Mine and we were soon down to our base layers, it was going to be a warm day! Not before long we saw the alpine looking peak that is Catstycam poking up further up the valley. It looked gorgeous, half of it being lit up with the morning sun, and the other half in the shade. While staring at the mountain I saw a long Gully that more or less led to the summit of the mountain and I quickly remembered it must be Catstycam Gully, a grade I/II that neither of us had ever climbed before. The first time I ever stood on the summit of Catstycam was in winter and I remember clearly 2 young lads topping out of this gully with broad smiles on their faces, we just had to give it a go!

We traversed across the northern slopes of Catsycam to the base of the gully where we got our climbing gear on. We roped up and Kelvyn set off up the gully. We alternated pitches as we made our way up what was a very enjoyable route. Kelvyn topped out of the route ahead of me and I soon followed. As I stepped over the top I was firstly hit with the baking heat and the light from the sun, and also the views. Helvellyn and it’s edges is a view that I have seen in all weathers hundreds of times, but somehow I had forgotten about it, and when I picked my head up from the final steps out of the gully my jaw near enough hit the flaw, that moment made the entire climb for me.

The skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. We opted to chill out with a coffee and plan our next route which was to be on the eastern face of Helvellyn. It was only 11.30am and we could see the heat waves rising from the ground, it was getting warmer too.

We made our way across to the foot of Red Tarn Cove where we were once again in the shade of the mountain. We picked our way up through boulders to the foot of the route called Gully 1, a Grade II climb which looked in fantastic condition. Kelvyn took the lead on the first 2 pitches and even rescued someones ice axe from a ledge that they had dropped on an adjacent Grade IV route. The ice pitch was in as good a condition as it looked and it gave us some tremendous climbing. I led through up the snow slope above the Ice pitch and took a stance just below the summit due to running out of rope. Shortly after we both reached the top of the climb which could not have finished much more on the summit of Helvellyn if we had tried. Once again we were hit with the heat from the sunshine as well immense views westwards.

We enjoyed an extended lunch stop in the summit shelter soaking up some rays along with some much needed energy. The obvious descent route would be down Swirral Edge but in a bid to make the most of the sunshine we descended down Lower Man and then over White Side to Keppel Cove from which we zig zagged our way back to Greenside Mine.

Yet another day of fantastic weather and company and one that should keep the outdoor demons at bay for a little longer!

Wetherlam via Steel Edge

16 02 2013

A grand day out on on of my fave Lakeland Mountains, Wetherlam. A great route that I have enjoyed a number of times that takes in Wetherlam is the loop above the Greenburn Valley, taking in Swirl How and Great Carrs. Looking to mix it up we fancied exploring Steel Edge. Located on Wetherlam’s eastern face a spur just out from the mountain. It start off predominantly grassy but is soon broken up with multiple buttresses. Any reading online you will do about Steel Edge is pretty much guaranteed to say ‘It’s the one that Wainwright missed!’ (and there you go I have said it too now!) A.W must have seen Steel Edge on his ascent up Wetherlam Edge or even as he ventured up from Tilberthwaite. I like that A.W missed this ridge as it means it is left for those who want to enjoy the mountain as to what could be regarded ‘the unconventional way’.

Starting from Castle Howe in Little Langdale (mostly as we couldn’t be bothered to drive around to Tilberthwaite) we made our way up towards Birks. We contoured around it’s base before dropping down to the end of Steel Edge. All morning the cloud had been licking the summit of Wetherlam, but while it wasn’t above our heads we were enjoying some lovely sunshine.

We enjoyed Steel Edge but we would have liked a little more snow on it! The fun was over all too quickly but it was a great experience, and I think knowing that not everyone knows it exists made it that bit more special. At the top of the edge we had some lunch before heading for the summit of Wetherlam under some lovely sunshine. This gave the afternoon a lovely Alpine feel.

From the summit of Wetherlam we rapidly descended Wetherlam Edge in the snow, and sometimes finding our bums sliding along it as we lost control of our footings. As we made our way back to the car we couldn’t help but admire the Langdale Pikes standing there in all their glory in the afternoon light. We topped the day off with a cheeky Pint in the ODG!

This walk is not on Lakeland Mountain Guide’s Diary, but if you want to do it we will happily do it on a day of Private Guiding.