Monday, 8 December 2008

Winter in The Lakes (Part 2)

Pinnacle Ridge 200m III 2*, Gable Crag.

While Graham and AndyC were over by Helvellyn, Mark, Ste, Jonah and Richard were on their way to Great Gable. It was Ste and Richard's first winter route and this is Ste's report on the day interspersed with a selection of his and Mark's photos of the trip:

A failed alpine start saw us leaving the hut around 7.30am and it wasn't long before we realised conditions were significantly better than expected. Swathes of white glistened both on the fells and again reflected in a perfectly still Derwent Water. We didn't stop for a picture, we were running late and keen to get going. As we approached Seathwaite Jonah pointed out some suitably snow choked looking gullies on Great End, it looked like we had picked a good day to be out.

So park up, rucksacks out, and big boots on. Now what do we do with all these sharp pointy bits of metal? A few pointers saw all potentially lethal spikes safely stowed and we're off. It doesn't take long to hit the snow line and encouraged by this we make good progress up to Styhead Tarn. Turning right up to Windy Gap things get steeper and the snow gets much deeper. Bloody hell its hard work, and before long I'm dripping in sweat and feel like my lungs are about to explode.

And so to the crag, looks mightily impressive and generously daubed with snow and frost. There's a bit of a queue which gives us more time to faff about gearing up. Gloves on, need to undo this krab, gloves off, hands cold arrghh gloves back on, bugger need to adjust ice axe leashes etc...

We move up to the route. Jonah leads the way and after 10m or so cries "Excellent!! I've got a runner!". Mark grimaces knowing he's got to lead after Richard ascends, I'm happy I'm on second.

One by one they disappear. Soon enough I'm left standing alone on the belay and as the ropes come tight I pick up my axes and step out into the unknown. It feels incredibly unnatural and insecure scratching around on crampons but some bomber turf for axe placements keeps me off the rope.

Pitch 2 has a few tasty moves off the belay and I'm beginning to find my feet. There's also a bold and strenuous last section which keeps Mark entertained for while. Pitch 3 is a bit of a snowy romp and we quickly blast up.

The crux Pitch 4 moves up a wide chimney onto a large chockstone (with gripping views across and down into the next gully) and then very thin moves across onto and then up a vertical wall before easing.

There's 10 metres of easy snow to finish and so I romp up to the top. Woohoo! The sun is setting and the views are amazing but there's no time to dawdle and we pack our gear away and quickly begin our long descent.

What a day. I can't help feel I've been spoilt a little for a first
winter outing, I'm sure I'll remember this keenly when stuck in a gale
in some awful gully in Scotland.

Bring it on!