24 May 2010

With thanks to FG Balcombe and JA Shepherd

I said yesterday that I would be climbing on Great Gable today and that is exactly what I did. It may have to go down as one of the best day's of climbing I've had in a long time. This wasn't just because the climbing was fantastic, but like yesterday, it shows the Lake District at it's best.

Walking along Moses Trod on the way to the crag.

The surroundings which we trotted through for just over an hour, in order to reach the crag, have to be some of the best on display in the national park; from the summit of Honister Pass we traversed both Brandreth and Green Gable before reaching the bottom of Great Gable. For nearly the entirety of this journey we used the path known as Moses Trod, and like yesterday, this modern day pedestrian way has it's groundings in the fantastic, and at times inspiring, Lakeland history. The path takes its name from the mystical character, Moses Rigg, who used the path, in the 1780's, to smuggle graphite from the mines on Grey Knotts, above Seathwaite in the Borrowdale Valley, which were protected by armed guards, so that it could be sold in the back rooms of Keswick's taverns. This path allows for excellent views of the high crags of Cumbria, as well as Ennerdale and at times Buttermere and Crummock Water beyond and it is possible to see why it was so convenient for the smugglers' of Cumbria. It would have been extremely secret in the 1700's; now it is heavily eroded and unfortunately scars the landscape.

From the scree field: looking down the Ennerdale Valley.

We did leave the smugglers' path once Gable Crag, which was the venue for today's climb, towered above us. We made slow progress up the scree field, but we eventually made it to the Climber's Traverse where we could sort out our gear and get on the climb, which was first climbed in 1934 by Mr FG Balcombe and Mr JA Shepherd on what I am guessing was a similar day to the one we had.

Gable Crag.

The route was Engineer's Slabs (VS), a two pitch, three star, Hard Rock tick and I lead the first pitch to the small sentry box, where I belayed my companion, before following them up the cracks, chimney and hideous groove to the top.

From the top of the crag: looking down the Ennerdale Valley.

It was an amazing climb, not because of its difficulty, but because of its difficulty. If that makes sense? In modern standards it is not really that difficult and it can be easily protected with modern day protection, but back in 1934 it would have been a totally different story. The protection used back then must have made the final groove extremely bold for the leader and this in itself puts a lot of things into perspective in my life, but also inspires me at the same time.

Looking across to the layback crack on the second pitch whilst descending, by abseil, after a successful ascent.

Routes like the one we ascended today puts climbing on a level beyond the simplicity of moving on rock and pulling on holds, which at times is a nice thing, but the history behind these routes and the areas in which you explore, in order to reach the routes, makes climbing so much more and this is nice. In fact it is better than nice; it gives you energy, motivation and inspiration not just for climbing, but for life.

I think I'll head out tomorrow evening for some thought of climbing fun and then on Wednesday I may head to Scafell to check out Central Buttress: the hardest rock climb in the UK... well in 1914 anyway.


Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...
Iain

1 comment:

dennis hodgson said...

I rate Engineers Slab the best VS in the Lakes, but if you haven't done Eliminate A on Dow or The Crack on Gimmer, they come close.

A couple of points: [1] Moses' Sledgate has nothing to do with the wadd from Seathwaite. Moses was a moonshiner!

[2] "Just over an hour from Honister to Gable Crag". Are you kidding? I'd allow two hours [it took two and a half on the return last time I visited, although that's because we didn't get off the crag until 10.30pm].