Tag Archives: Lake District.

WHITBARROW SCAR – a day out with Poppy.

My diary records – 22 October 1988. Circuit of Whitbarrow, Chris and Matthew. Glorious day, sunny and warm. 6.5 miles. The weekend before I had been climbing on Castle Rock, Thirlmere, and the next I was off to Morocco, trecking in the Jebel Sahro. Those were the days.

Whitbarrow is a wooded limestone ridge towering above the Kent Estuary prominently seen from across the water on the road to Arnside and its crags driven under on the Barrow road. Wainwright gives it a chapter in his Outlying Fells book. I hadn’t been back since that day so I was pleased when Sir Hugh suggested it for today’s walk. I managed to persuade the Rockman and his dog to come along saying it would be a short trip as Sir Hugh is recovering from a broken elbow and is only just using his walking poles. The morning was dreadful with floods developing from the torrential downpour but by the time we met up at Mill Side there was a glimpse of something better. The keenest member of the party was Poppy the Airdale Terrier.

What followed was a switchback route through woods, steep slippery slopes, glorious open ridge walking and first class limestone scenery. The Rockman and I just followed the intrepid Sir Hugh who was obviously rejoicing in his new found freedom, at times we all had to be careful not to suffer any further injury. Some paths I think were known only to him. Poppy jogged along contentedly and took all the considerable obstacles in her stride, though she seemed happiest when we stopped for lunch at the highest point, Lords Seat,

We completed a figure of eight course which included a close encounter with the base of Chapel Head Scar, a bastion of limestone hosting difficult sports climbs. I had never climbed here and I never will when I realised the grades. However above the crag, reached by a precipitous path, is a beautiful meadow which seemed perfect for a summer bivi looking out to the west over the Kent Estuary. There are paths everywhere and the whole area is worthy of further exploration, I particularly would like to walk closer under the southern White Scar cliffs which we seemed to miss by being in the woods, hereabouts our legs and conversation were just beginning to drag for the last half mile.

 

LONG SCAR DILEMMAS.

“Lower me down” – I had reached my dilemma. I couldn’t figure a way directly up the groove which was threatening to push me off and I was having trouble pulling on the flake high to my right which was the alternative. I had only come for an easy day and that reach was paining my stiff shoulder, even stiffer later! Fortunately I wasn’t on the lead and had the luxury of a top rope which slowly deposited me back in a heap at the base of the climb which happened to be named Katie’s Dilemma, I know how she felt. Dave and Rod proceeded without me.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                         Dave solving Katie’s Dilemma.

 

I’m often accused of overusing the word super in my enthusiasm – well today was super. [excellent, first rate, remarkable, marvellous, wonderful, glorious, exquisite, perfect, splendid  —  I could try some of these in future.]  The sky was blue, the air clear, the sun was shining, the temperature was 24º and this is the English Lake District.

We had braved the tortuous narrow lanes up to the summit of Wrynose Pass and parked up next to the Three Shires Stone. This boundary stone marks the spot where historically the counties of Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland met. The stone has a history of its own. Cut in Cartmel from limestone in 1816 for a William Field, the Furness roadmaster but not erected until 1860. The front of the stone is inscribed with Lancashire and the reverse W.F. 1816, no mention of the other counties. Apparently it was smashed into four pieces in a car accident in 1997, restored and re-erected in 1998.  It shows its scars today and Cumbria has taken over.

A made up path winds its way up the fell across boggy ground on the skirts of Pike O’Blisco. This is an area where the carnivorous Sundew plant may be found, a fact I learnt one previous trip to Long Scar when botanists were scouring the ground on their hands and knees. We saw none today and I suspect they are quite rare. The crag soon comes into sight as an eponymous long scar below Black Crag. The rock looked clean and dry and we had the place to ourselves for most of the day. The volcanic rock is roughly textured although in the central popular area there is erosion, possibly from group use, and the climbs here are becoming a little shiny; nevertheless this is where like lemmings we started.                                                          Rod’s dilemma – which groove?

In the past we had climbed all these routes so we soon spread further along the crag and that’s how I found my dilemma. Anyhow we were basking in the sun and enjoying the views – the nearby Wetherlam range, Crinkle Crags, the far off Windermere, the hikers below us and the occasional plane flying low through the gap. More climbs were enjoyed and life was good.                                       Great Carrs, Wetherlam and Coniston Old Man.


                                                                      Crinkle Crags.

 

For the usual record —

Platt Gang Groove. VD. Rod had his own dilemma as to which groove was which.                             Direct Start Old Holborn VD.                                                                                                                Katie’s Dilemma MVS.                                                                                                                               Billy’s Climb MS.                                                                                                                                      Green Treacle HS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warton Pinnacle Crag.

On the border of Lancashire and Cumbria is a wooded hillside, Warton Fell, prominently seen from the M6. A great gash of the fell has been taken out by a large quarry, a scary place to climb. Above in the woods are limestone outcrops which dry quickly and give short climbs on some quality rock. It has rained most of this week but the forecast is improving so it was time for a revisit. The Pinnacle Crag was our aim. The paths seem to be disappearing under vegetation and it is not till the last minute that any sign of cliffs appear.

We are back up to a team of three as Rod has returned from the States and also we are joined by Sir Hugh as an interested spectator, bits of his body having curtailed his climbing. Talk about last of the summer wine but we did about 10 routes so not a bad effort. They were all in the VD-S range but each one was steep and cruxy.

Rod, Dave and Sir Hugh.

Rod, Dave and Sir Hugh.

The first buttress we arrived at was a bit gloomy but the rock was excellent and we squeezed three lines out of it; Simian VD, Free Stile HS, and Ming S.

Simian.

Simian.

We moved over to the main area, Plumb Buttress, to get some sun and eat lunch. Above us reared The Big Plumb, HVS 5c, tackling a large bulge and then steep rock, I could only ever do it by constructing a cairn of stones to start, not today thanks. After a couple more minor lines Rod worked out the sequence to start Lone Tree Groove which gave steep climbing on clean rock which has become polished on the crucial holds. I then enjoyed a couple of severes on the left wall climbed mainly on perfect flakes, Flake and Wall and Clare’s Crack. The descent route down a gully is becoming very polished and care is needed.

Heading for the Lone Tree.

Heading for the Lone Tree.                               [Credit Sir Hugh]

Clare's Crack. Credit Sir Hugh.

Clare’s Crack.                                                     [Credit Sir Hugh.]

Another pair of local climbers and their friendly dog were in the area and added to the sociability of the day.

Team X on Flake and Wall.

Team X on Flake and Wall.

We finished off with two nice short routes round and down to the left, the arete Gremp S and the flaky Skutch VD, and never made it to the actual pinnacle.

The day had been sunny and warm, the views to the Lakes across Morecambe Bay were clear, there was as much chat as climbing and at the end of the day we were well satisfied wandering back down to the village. Simple pleasures.

 

Sir Hugh’s account may be found here – https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=1365582190126322848&postID=5013355740371114281

LANGDALE CLIMBING – first visit to White Crag.

From time to time my friend Mark phones for a days climbing whilst his school pupils sit exams or he is ‘officially’ marking papers – these outings have become known as ‘Marking days’. So it was this week when we met up late morning in the carpark of a local curry house.  He had just acquired a camping van and proudly showed me round. The forecast was for thundery rain in the afternoon but we risked a trip up to Langdale to have a look at White Crag. I must have walked above this outcrop so many times on my way up to Gimmer without being aware of its existence. The valley was quiet with only one team on Raven Crag when we passed under it and then followed a level track to the lower of the two White Crag buttresses, a gentle 15mins.

Approaching the lowest White Crag.

Approaching the lowest White Crag.

Immediately two lines stood out  – the grooves of Bee Line and the Bumble Arete.                   Mark set off up the grooves which were cleaner than they appeared to a small overlap where a neat step up and left gained a wall with smaller holds, we didn’t think Bee Line, HS, warranted  a 4c grade.

Mark onto the arete of Bee Line.

Mark onto the arete of Bee Line.

Bumble Arete, VD, was pure joy – a little wall brought me suddenly onto the arete which had the best of holds all the way to the top, 60ft up. Worth the two stars.

Bumble Arete on the right.

Bumble Arete on the right.

Well satisfied we were having a snack when the boom of thunder filled the valley, the sky darkened and ominent  large rain drops splattered the rock. We sat tight for a while and thankfully the storm rumbled off to some other unfortunate Lakeland valley. So it was time to have a look at the upper crag which has only recently been  developed.

Once again obvious  lines on excellent rock promised good climbing.  Left Trouser Leg People, MVS, was brilliant, Easy rocks soon had Mark at the cruxy  move onto a slab and up into the left groove and a lovely finish round the overhang on jugs.We found a sneaky chain abseil which greatly eased the evenings climbing.

Move onto slab.

Move onto slab.

Juggy finish.

Juggy finish.

I couldn’t wait to get onto  Val Ferret, HS, just left, a groovy groove, a spicy layback and juggy finish. A grade easier but also worth two stars.

My sandwich box with  its tasty quiche was missing when we sat down to rest, left at lower crag no doubt, so my weight loss diet had a jump start.

Next was  Right Trouser Leg People, VS, a tricky wall lower down and  an absorbing groove higher up. A quick abseil and onto the thin slab of Langdale Ferrets, VS, with its steep finish.

Awkward slab on Lakeland Ferrets.

Awkward slab on Lakeland Ferrets.

Finishing Lakeland Ferrets.

Finishing Lakeland Ferrets.

As we gazed out over the green fields and rough hillsides opposite we seemed to be the only people in the valley.  A perfect end to a great days climbing. I will definitely return to these lovely unknown crags.

By the time we were back in Preston I was too weary for a curry but thanked them for the parking.      Roll on the next ‘Marking day’.

 

Wainwright’s Outlying Fells – The Final Chapter.

The Bannisdale Horseshoe.

Lonely tramping.

By pure serendipity Sir Hugh and I had left this circuit to finish off our Winter tramps around these fells, it was AW’s last chapter also…  “take a companion who is agile enough to run for help… God be with you.”

With careful planning we parked up the hidden Bannisdale valley at Dryhowe Bridge reducing the day’s mileage. But six hours later we had tramped across eight and a half miles of grass with 3000ft of ascent. The ridge was broad and tussocky but the ground is thankfully drying out. A few cairns marked the indistinct tops and our view most of the day was northwards to the higher Kentmere fells. On the return leg a trig. point appeared on White Howe and from here were views over Kendal to the coast at Arnside, I think I could spot Sir Hugh’s house. These are remote fells and will not see many walkers. At last the temperature has improved and we enjoyed sunshine all day, you wouldn’t want to be here on a rainy or misty one.

Bannisdale.

Bannisdale.

Longsleddale and the distant Kentmere skyline

Longsleddale and the distant Kentmere skyline.

"agile enough"

“agile enough to run for help”

South from White Howe.

South from White Howe.

A few words about Sir Hugh – a good friend of several years initially climbing together, a fanatical long distance walker, dependable and enthusiastic to the end,  despite his dodgy knees I just manage to keep up with him. The Outlying Fells have been  a worthwhile project and given us good times out together, my appreciation of the area has been definitely broadened. May I have a rest now?

 

The completed Wainwright Outlying Fells.

The completed Wainwright Outlying Fells.

 

Two classics on Raven Crag, Langdale.

 

We have seen better days.

As You Like It.   W Shakespeare.                                                                                                                     400th anniversary of the Bard’s death today.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll car park had a space for us despite a relatively late arrival. Whilst sorting the gear a man approaches me with a confident ” I know you” I look puzzled and he adds “Bradford climbing”. Still no recollection on my part I suspect mistaken identity but I add that by chance I had been out walking the day before with Conrad, who started his climbing days with the Bradford crowd. That brought an immediate response from this pleasant fellow – “not Conrad Robinson”  It transpired he knew him well and our conversation broadened to all things Yorkshire and days gone by. I still don’t think we had any connection but the other coincidences were strange and I later discovered even stranger as Conrad had the day before been talking of climbing trips past and how one friend was a great joker – the very man we were now talking to. Sadly neither climb any more.

Up at the crag several groups were on the main face so we went round the corner to the prominent buttress which hosts  Centipede. 90m S **   Rod made short work of the steep start up which I struggled to join him at the giant flake. I knew I was not performing well on this my first route of the year, missing out on the climbing walls in favour of walking had me ill-prepared. Nonetheless I grabbed the gear and poked about on the flake. One has to achieve a standing position on its top and then make an unprotected hard pull into a steep groove before a mantelshelf move. After time spent faffing trying to throw a sling over the flake my resolve had vanished and I backed off. Rod made it all look very easy and joined the next two pitches together. I was glad nobody witnessed my subsequent nervous attempt on that flake, knees playing a big part. I think I would have taken a fall if I’d continued at the sharp end.  My complete lack of confidence had thoughts of never climbing again in my head, definitely had seen better days. After a traverse there is a lovely slabby arete and I began to think more clearly, relax, place my feet more precisely on the rough rock and almost enjoy the situation.  Having calmed down I went on to lead up the much easier long last pitch of mainly scrambling and enjoyed the belay perch high on the crag with views down Langdale, looking resplendent in the Spring sunshine.

Centipede buttress - the obvious overhang is les than halfway up the route.

Centipede buttress – the obvious overhang is less than halfway up the route.

 

After lunch the main face provided The Original Route. 60m. S ***  I was all too happy to second the whole climb and see if my form had returned. No – I found the first pitch was steep and awkward with poor gear and the pillar above even trickier. I must have climbed this route many times in the past and never been troubled, when have severes seemed so hard. Rod climbed the magnificent steep top wall all in one pitch and I coped better. All we had to face then was that awkward down climb by the tree on the descent, more faffing by myself but I’m still alive.

High on the last pitch of The Original Route.

High on the last pitch of The Original Route.

We reflected on the perfect warm day for climbing on this commanding crag with these two superb routes. In the past I wouldn’t have been content without another route or two but now I was happy to descend and lick my wounds. Hopefully there are better days to come.

 

 

 

OPEN SKIES OVER SWINDALE.

Today’s fells really need to be experienced in person, preferably in the gorgeous weather we were blessed with. Photographs hardly do justice to the feeling of the wide open spaces which we even compared to the skies over the Broads. There are endless miles of undulating hills sitting on the very edge of the Lakes.  AW writes – “a worthwhile expedition on a clear day, not so much for the views, which are dreary and uninspiring, as for the exhilaration of new territory, solace of solitude and beneficial exercise”    Exactly.

Sir Hugh’s choice of parking proved to be fortuitous as other approach roads seemed blighted by works. A simple climb over our first Outlier – Langhowe Pike – with its views down Swindale, where we picked up the corpse road which climbed its way from Mardale into this valley and then on to the church in Shap and consecrated burial ground. I was on another corpse road last week which came from Wasdale, past Burnmoor Tarn to Eskdale.

NW Water are undertaking a lot of work in the Swindale catchment area and things are a bit of a mess still. The last time  I was here to climb on Gouther Crag the footbridge was being lifted away in front of our eyes,   [ https://bowlandclimber.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/getting-better-gouther-crag-climbing/ ]   its replacement is completely out of place. Thankfully higher up the original stepping stones are still there. Chatting to a local man it seems that not everyone is happy with the Swindale works, the two higher farms have been bought by the waterboard and are now unoccupied, there has been a lot of fencing erected on open ground and much tree planting on the fells. I would have thought that the latter is good for the environment and should visually be of benefit in a few years.

Swindale from Langhowe Pike.

Swindale from Langhowe Pike.

Anyhow on with the walk up beautiful Swindale. A cyclist was masochistically pushing a bike up the corpse road as it climbed to Mardale. We entered a world of drumlins at the head of the valley before a brutal 1000ft climb up to Nabs Moor and onto Howes.  My altimeter ran out of juice at this point so I couldn’t confirm the days total, I suspect about 3000ft. From up here we had views down to Mosedale and its MBA cottage. A lazy lunch was taken by a playful stream, the sunshine delaying our departure.

Drumlins at the head of Swindale.

Drumlins at the head of Swindale.

Mosedale.

Mosedale.

Looking back to Howes.

Looking back to Howes.

 

The next group of hills High Wether Howe, Fewling Stones, Seat Robert and Great Ladstones proved a tiring round with many boggy depressions but the blue skies made up for it and we chugged along but were nonetheless pleased to see the car in the late afternoon.

Onwards from Higher Wether Howe.

Onwards from Higher Wether Howe.

Contemplating past glories from Seat Robert.

Contemplating past glories from Seat Robert.

 

'The Road goes ever on and on' Lord of the Rings.

‘The Road goes ever on and on’   Tolkien  Lord of the Rings.