When a Facebook post went out requesting ‘mock students’ to work with trainee MIA, Graham Uney on a scrambling day in the Lake District, I didn’t think twice before responding. I’ve been scrambling for a long time but have only occasionally ventured beyond grade 1 territory, so the chance to push it up a notch with someone who knew what they were doing seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. Since the meet with Graham was set for a Monday, it made perfect sense to make a long weekend of things and get some walking and a wild camp in beforehand. Another Facebook post from fellow ML trainee Nick asking if anyone was out and about at the weekend sealed the deal and a plan was formed…
I met up with Nick on Saturday morning at the new Alpkit shop in a very wet Ambleside. After bagging some treasure for an on-going bike build (more on that soon), we headed off into the rain, destination: the Stickle Barn NT car park in Great Langdale. The plan was to walk up to Crinkle Crags, continue over Bow Fell and Esk Pike then head down towards Angle Tarn for a camp. On Sunday we’d return to Stickle Barn via the Langdale Pikes. We’d planned escape routes in case the rain got too miserable or the forecast thunderstorms materialised but we needn’t have worried: within an hour of setting off, the rain had stopped and conditions continued to improve throughout the rest of the day. Heat and humidity proved to be our biggest problem and it felt like we were leaking out water quicker than we could drink it. I’d recently purchased an MSR Trailshot water filter and made frequent use of it over the weekend. The speed and ease with which it filled two 1l Sigg bottles was impressive, providing plenty of time to relax while I waited for Nick to finish up with his Sawyer squeezy-bag-filter-thing.
We pitched close to Angle Tarn as did 4 or 5 other parties that evening. After stuffing our faces we hit the single malt, before drifting off to the land of nod.
Sunday dawned warm and sunny (the forecast was for cloud and drizzle!) making for a pleasant return to Stickle Barn, via Rossett Pike, Martcrag Moor and Pike of Stickle. After a cup of tea and a face full of flapjack courtesy of the nice National Trust lady in the car park, Nick and I bade our farewells. He then headed home to the Midlands while I drove leisurely round to Borrowdale. The meet with Graham was planned for 8:30am Monday morning at Seathwaite so I’d decided on the luxury of a hotel a couple of miles up the road in Rosthwaite for Sunday night. Can’t beat a bar meal, beer and Poldark on the tele..
Despite some overnight rain, Monday dawned dry, sunny and warm. Marvellous. I met up with Graham and fellow ‘mock student’, Simon at Seathwaite where we were briefed on the day ahead. The plan was to make our way up to Sty Head then undertake four classic grade 2 scrambles up the huge southern frontage of Great Gable. Starting with Threading the Needle, we’d progress along the Climbers’ Traverse to Sphinx Rock, from where we’d scramble up Sphinx Ridge onto the neck of grass below Westmorland Crag. The summit would then be gained by a scramble up Pinnacle Ridge on said crag. We’d be roped up throughout and would progress by a mixture of moving together and being belayed from above by Graham.
This was my first time on Great Gable and what an introduction! Threading the Needle (the scramble up and down the gap between Napes Needle and the bulk of Great Gable) was wet and very greasy today, perhaps notching it up a grade. Our boots struggled to grip so the security of the rope was welcome. The continuation along the Climbers’ Traverse and lower reaches of Sphinx Ridge were similarly wet in places and more vegetated than I was used to, but nowhere excessively difficult. As we gained height, the rock got drier and grippier and the situation more impressive. The scrambling was excellent throughout – easier sections interspersed with little problems to be solved and all, thankfully, well within my capabilities.
I learned much from Graham during the day; about the environment, local flora and fauna, scrambling, early Lakeland rock climbing history, how to build simple belays, how to tie a clove hitch(!), ML work and plenty more. A fitting finale to an excellent weekend!