Mad Dogs and Englishwomen go climbing on Red Tarn Face …

February 5th, 2018 by rob s

… but we didn't, we went to Brown Cove Crags.
On a stunning Mike (being only slightly ill) & I (Rob being only slightly stupid and being awoken at 6.30 in PJs) responded to Dave W's call to hills and headed over to the Lakes. Parking in the layby we walked through Swirls car park – which is now free (well the machine has been busted for months apparently) and upto the cove in improving weather.

We were not sure what we'd find given the preceding week's weather, the crag certainly looked wintery. In reality, there was a smattering of new soft snow lying on top of waterlogged old snow that in places was great but mostly was only just ok. Some turf was hard but most was rubbish so we kept off the turfy buttresses.

We headed up a lean Central Gully mostly on our feet with an occasional gymnastic move off a hook. Towards the top we headed left across the buttresses which was fun. Nearly all done with 1 axe, Mike didn't bother with cramps. On top the weather was stunning and the views of the rising snowline on Skiddaw group picturesque. Dave and I descended Left Parallel Gully and came back up Right, both easy grade 1 plods with no real interest, but good to get the feel for the snow.

Back on top Mike had built a bollard and we did some skills revision (stompers, NZ stompers, bucket seats, buried axe and boot-axe belays and body belaying – as well as rope coiling to make Mike look like a professional alpinist. I then suggested to Mike we test his bollard by abbing down the gully, I was very suspicious of the size. As Mike weighs next to nought the abbing went ok but when I asked him to jump and pull on the rope it got a little more exciting. It was quite interesting watching the rope cutting through 3/4 of the bollard. Luckily I had him on a separate belay. Enlightening.

After some lunch, we strolled up to Helvellyn summit, observing the faces, lack of cornices etc, to see how the busy Red Tarn face was. We toyed with the idea of descending and doing a route but in the end, just watched the teams coming up and left in a bit of mist.

As we headed back along the ridge, we watched a young woman and mad dog (Duke I think) bounding up the face from the snow bowl. We were amazed at the Duke's performance and the woman looked clearly competent making short work of the snow slope which steepened a bit, no more than Grade 1 territory. We spoke briefly at the top as Duke ran around enthusiastically and we wandered off just as she called down to her male partner to check on him.

A nice stroll back down, observing a helicopter, and we were on the road fairly early and back in York for 7. Only then did we find out about the epic that unfurled behind us.

Apparently, the woman's husband got into difficulties with bendy boots on the headwall and requested help from nearby climbers (Wes). One of them grabbed a couple of axes and in his haste to reach the climber, tripped over his crampons and went head first down the snow bowl for 150m. He was rescued by his mates (while Alan Hinkes sorted the stranded climber out) and walked off the hill for while until feeling bad and calling MR out. A few busted ribs is all the long-term damage.

Quite a day for learning opportunities!

pix from Mike, Daves camera broke, I forgot mine in rush !

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