A "Great End" to the winter season

March 26th, 2013 by Jamie B

As the weather warmed up and the snow retreated I was preparing to hang up my axes until next year. The ever unpredicatble climate had other ideas however, and with another cold snap arriving the usual emails began to circulate with talk of a Wenesday bunk off for a raid on the lake district.

I met up with Rob, Paul and Peri at Scotch corner for a quick car swap (and bacon and egg bap in Peri's case) before heading off over the A66. Paul's tongue-in-cheek attemps to get a rise out of the UKC'ers didn't yield any good venue suggestions so we were forced to settle for Great End, the obvious choice as it's high, the right aspect and, being mid-week, shouldn't be as busy as it can be. Upon arriving at the crag (inexplicably late) we found half a dozen pairs on Central Gully so Peri and Rob headed for South-East Gully whilst Paul and I opted for Window Gully.Ice Pillar, pitch 2, South East Gully.

Jamie on pitch one of Window Gully.

Jamie on pitch one of Window Gully.

The first ice we found was a little thin so we skirted round it on easy snow to gain the gully proper. We roped up and, as Paul had climbed the route a couple of months ago, I took the lead. A few metres of snow led to steeper ice so I popped a sling around a substantial looking ice pillar and set off with confidence. A couple of steps up and said ice pillar collapsed under my right boot. Slightly perturbed by this, and with no other gear in sight (I didn't much fancy placing my first ice screw in this rather unstable spot), I eased up a little higher to find a get out of jail free card: a two-inch crack poking out from under the blanket of ice. A quick fumble with a wire, and a couple of whacks with my hammer for good measure, saw my heart rate descending back from humming bird frequencies. With the help of an ice screw or two, the rest of the pitch went easily enough, save for a bulldog which, despite my hammering, decided it didn't much like the crack it was in and hurled itself back down the route.

After retreving the errant bulldog, Paul followed me up the pitch and lead through the next on a mixture of easy snow, rock and ice. Paul had borrowed a pair of Rob's mono-point crampons (who, wanting to keep his average up, had brought two pairs with him) which he described as "not so stable on snow, but great on mixed stuff", concluding "mono-points would be better if only you had two of them!"

Jamie starting out on the direct finish to Window Gully, with the Upper Icefall variant visible on right hand side.

Direct finish to Window Gully. Icefall variant visible on right hand side.

I joined Paul at the stance where we were faced with a choice: carry on up the direct finish, or take the Upper Icefall variant on the right hand side.

Rob on the ice pillar, pitch 2, South East Gully.

Rob on the ice pillar, pitch 2, South East Gully.

In the pressent conditions they looked of similar difficultly so we opted for the direct finish, in part because Paul had done the variant previously, but mostly because we would need to move the belay to the other side of the gully, which seemed like far too much faff for that time of day. The pitch went without too much trouble on mostly sound ice and we soon found ourselves on the top.

We got back to the base of the crag to find Rob and Peri sorting their gear, their concensus being that their route had been "interesting". All round a great end to the winter season…

… or is it…

Rob topping out on South East Gully.

Rob topping out on South East Gully.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.