Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lakes Winter Climbing

The Lakes is in. But Wales is closer. But routes have been done in the lakes... Decisions. This was the basis of mine and Tim's talk during the week building up to the weekend. In the end, we decided on the Lakes, and quite right we were...

We drove up to the Lakes on Friday night and parked up in Swirl Car park along Thirlmere reservoir. Not having a tent, and not feeling a night walk in the rain to bivi below the crag, we opted for biviing under the lean-to shelter outside the toilets. Classy.

Saturday morning, we geared up and headed uphill into the CLAG to find Brown Cove Crags. At first there was no snow, until we got above about 300m. After an hour, the crags loomed up ahead. We stopped by a small rock outcrop where we put on crampons, geared up and set off. We met some other climbers who pointed us in the direction of our climb: Two Grooves (IV, 6). Me and Tim looked at a small groove which we thought we'd solo to get to the climb. At first it was easy, until pulling over the top rock step which was a bit fluttery. Not until we saw the second pitch of our climb did we realise that we had just soloed the first pitch! Now, being the crux pitch, we both wanted to lead it. To help us decide, we used the scientific method of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The tension was mounted. 1...2...3... Me: Paper, Tim: Scissors. 1...2...3... Me: Scissors, Tim: Paper. 2 all. I had to win this one. 1...2...3... Tim: Rock, Me...

Me on Two Grooves
PAPER! I'd won the lead! This was it, My first grade IV lead, with a tech grade of 6! Tim had anchored himself with a warthog, and I set off. The crack took plenty of gear, but not all bomber. I had to clear snow and ice to get a majority of the nuts in. I progressed slowly, Hook on the small ledge, torque the crack, now bridge the walls. Crampon slipped! Heart in mouth.... Adjust feet, swing into frozen turf, swing again. Pick holds, transfer body weight. As i was nearing the top of the groove, I placed another wire. Looking down at my feet, I noticed that this wire was now the only one protecting the pitch! I had kicked the other out! Now I'm scared. I gained good feet on a ledge, bridged with my back against the walls and managed to get a bomber axe placement in the crack. A cam in the crack and now I'm faced with a decision. Take the easy normal route right, or the harder variation left? Ahh screw it, I'll go left. Bold, unforgiving and scary. 3 words that sum up this variation. The turf was well frozen, but still scared to commit to the placements. nether the less, I pulled through and finally topped out, rigged up the anchor and brought Tim up.

We descended back down to the base of the crags via a grade I gully and dumped our packs. Our next intention had a team just starting the route, so we opted for soloing a grade III instead called Right Buttress Crack. There was only one real difficulty and that was pulling over a chockstone, but the rest of the route was solid snow and ice climbing. We passed all the difficulties and decided on traversing across a grade II snow gully to get to a very nice looking chimney on the other side. As we were crossing the gully, other teams appeared. It was a busy day here after all as there were teams on every pitch of this climb. I climbed up the side of the chimney and proceeded to take pictures of Tim as he soloed up the climb. We continued up the mountain and finished up the final slope of the grade II where we met a team of 4. We stopped and had a chat with them and then headed back down to collect our packs.
Tim soloing Right Buttress Crack

Where we had geared up in the morning, we stopped here again and had a play around on some ice that had formed there. We also tried a small mixed 'bouldering' problem which would possibly get a VII 7 if it was on a route as we failed to complete it.

After a long hard day, we retired to the Apple Pie Shop in Ambleside for a well earned tea. Tim had decided he wanted a belay jacket so picked one up from Gaynor sports, only to return it 10 minutes later after finding another one in the Adventure peaks bargain basement. And on a final note, that chimney Tim soloed, it turns out it's a grade IV in the new Lake District winter climbs guidebook.

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