Monday, 29 September 2008

Birkness Combe

On Saturday afternoon Richard and AndyG went up to the Lakes in the hope of some autumn sunshine. After obtaining permission to park at the Borrowdale Hotel, they set out to bag a few classics on Shepherds Crag since Richard hadn't been there before. Unusually, there was no queue below Little Chamonix, however when they got to the tree covered terrace there was a queue of three parties awaiting the final pitches.

At this point Richard got brave and decided that for his first extreme lead he might like to attempt The Bludgeon E1 5b 2* because it would be a rather cool way to jump the queue. He reached the pinnacle in good style but then came the good bit. Surmounting the pinnacle with difficulty he was faced with the final few feet of overhanging rock leading to the Belvedere. Finding the key foothold proved strenuous as expected and Richard needed a rest on a cam before he was able to suss out the required sequence and finish the job.

After that they were both a little fatigued and decided that dinner would be a good idea. Richard drove to the club hut and then they walked over to the Coledale Inn for a few pints and some grub.

During dinner it started raining and it persisted through most of the night. However, the morning turned out fine and the mist lent itself to some spectacular photography.

After parking at Gatesgarth, they set out past the head of the lake and across the steep hillside to Birkness Combe. Apart from having great views over Buttermere and across Fleetwith Pike to Dalehead, the combe is home to Grey Crag.

Starting at the lowest point with Harrow Buttress, AndyG led the first pitch of Spider Wall 40m MVS 1*, giving Richard the second pitch with the slightly awkward mantel onto the bracket. This was followed by Fortiter 38m MVS 1* on Chockstone Buttress.

Finally moving up to Oxford and Cambridge Buttress it was Richard's turn to lead Dexter Wall 42m VS (4a,4c) 3*.  Described in the guide book as the crowning classic of the crag, it was a fine climb to end the day on.

Richard and AndyG were soon safely back in the car park not realising that just a mile or two away their friends were still battling with the Miners' Girdle.