The late May bank holiday/half-term week was a busy time for Not So Trad members with a well-attended (19 people in total) club trip to the Lake District (as well as two unofficial small groups climbing at Swanage and the Peak District).
Denise, Lynn and Jeremy came up on Thursday night and were joined on Friday morning by our local member Dave Proctor. Dave and Lynn had a great time climbing Tophet Wall and Napes Needle (the latter involves the leader lowering the second off and then down climbing using the gear for protection). Jeremy and Denise were less keen to talk about their route which after a couple of straight-forward pitches required a long and harrowing ascent up steep slippery grass and loose rock.
The majority of the group arrived late Friday evening having had M6 holiday traffic delays. But everyone was up early on Saturday morning to take advantage of the good weather, and because of the Lake District walk-ins – up to two hours at a steady pace is often needed (sadly Martin O whose uphill pace is very brisk wasn’t able to come on the trip). I know exactly how many steps Jen and I took on our inaugural day’s climbing together, 22229, as I’m currently wearing a pace counter for 100 days as part of a work challenge.
Our goal was Botterill’s Slab, a classic VS 4c of great antiquity which Jen had long had on her tick list. The first ascent (by F. W. Botterill) in 1903 was then by far the hardest recorded climb (done using hemp rope, hob-nail boots and no gear). The first pitch (mine) was a diedre, a wide open corner; these can be tricky. Thankfully I remember the tip which Fiona and I had been given by no less than James McHaffie who’d coached us a couple of years ago. When faced with a diedre, he suggests putting the whole of one’s back against a side – creating the maximum amount of friction – and treating it like a chimney. It worked a treat.
Botterill’s Slab is really all about the second pitch (“The main pitch is outstanding for its technical merit, quality and position”). It really is the quintessential slab: a long thin rectangle at a perfectly even, but steep angle. The summer route takes the slab face close to the arête (it’s a famous winter route too, graded VI 7 though the winter line take the corner). Jen made steady progress until confronted with an extended section which offered no chance to place gear. Jen kept her calm and spent time trying different options, before committing and moving up – but now there was no possibility of reversing the move – again very coolly she considered what to do and then made another few moves until she was stable and able to place gear. The difficulties weren’t over though but she kept going well and then was at the top of the slab. She doffed her helmet to me (in tribute to Botterill who apparently had raised his hat at the very same point on his first ascent when a lady rambler happened to walk by). The top pitch was nothing special, and soon Jen and I were up, looking across Mickledore col which joins Scafell to Scafell Pike – the latter famously England’s highest peak – where we could see a whole string of people heading to its top, some doing the Three Peaks challenge.
Back at the campsite parties gradually returned – all having had an enjoyable day. Many of us cooked and it was very convenient that we had the use of a big wooden table with benches. After such a long day, everyone went to bed early and slept soundly.
Next morning, however there was consternation at breakfast time. The picnic table had disappeared! Someone had nicked in the night. A search showed that it was in the next door field. Sybille went in to negotiate and emerged with a smile – the picnic table was ours again. (Next night Jen chained it to the fence to prevent any similar occurrence.)
I’d long wanted to climb Tophet Wall – said to be one of the best HS routes – and teamed up with Neil. He’d been on Napes Needle the previous day too, so it was kind of him to agree to go back (a 20,246 step day). Frustratingly when we got to the crag, there was one party on the second pitch, another just starting and five parties waiting in line! Neil said we t were unlucky as there’d been very few people at the crag the previous day. Reluctantly we looked at other routes. Unsurprisingly given its unusual grade of VS 4a, Tormentil looked to be gearless, so we chose Tophet Bastion VD (“four pitches of pleasant but polished climbing” according to the guidebook) thinking we’d have an easy time in the sun. How wrong we were! The first and second pitches have some very worrying passages (public comments on ukc include “a sand bag” and “more like HS”). As with all routes at The Napes, the descent down Great Hell Gate, a steep loose scree gully, required some care.
Jen led a group comprising Sybille, Claudina, Monica and Maya on Napes Needle.
Maya got very enthusiastic about the climbing, and had to descend by abseil with Jen (both of them wearing improvised chest harnesses) …
It wasn’t all about climbing over the weekend. Helen and Megan, accompanied by Sonya – who it was a pleasure to see on a club trip – were always first to leave the campsite spending a couple of long days walking the tops, but avoiding the crowds.
Kim (again a pleasure to see again on a club trip) and Ian were amongst those who climbed at Wallowbarrow, which has the benefit of a very short walk in.
It was great to see Clare back in action again. Although on one day she and Katy were prevented from climbing at Brantrake because of the bird ban. In true Not So Trad style, that meant there was more time for swimming – though the days were sunny, I guess the water temperature was pretty glacial
I was sorry to miss Kat and Dorien who joined the trip after the weekend.
Many thanks to Jen for organising a great weekend, with great weather, and we’re all so pleased it stayed sunny and dry for you for the whole week.