25 June 2010

Have you noticed...

one of the quotes that always appears at the bottom of the page:
"I have no sympathy with the ever increasing number who look on the tramp to the foot of the crags as a 'beastly grind.' It will be disastrous to the sport of climbing if its devotees cease to love the mountains as a whole, as the older men did, and wish only for the crags."
Traversing the screes of Birkness Combe on the approach to Grey Crag.

I first read those few short sentences written by Lehmann J. Oppenheimer in his 1908 book, The Heart of Lakeland, in the introduction to the Fell and Rock Climbing Club's guide to Buttermere and St Bees and they mirrored my original rationale for climbing. However, it is only of late that I have returned to this rationale; instead of chasing the grades I have started to explore the mountains once again and it is by climbing on the high mountain crags that I am achieving this.

An unknown climber heading up Slabs Ordinary (VD-).

Take today for example, we parked at the base of Honister Pass, just uphill from Gatesgarth Farm, and walked around the shore of Buttermere before striking uphill into Birkness Combe. Once in the combe, which is the traditional home of climbing in the Buttermere Valley, we made our way to the base of Grey Crag's Harrow Buttress, where we soloed the route, which shares the same name. From here we made our way to the next, slightly higher buttress, known as the Chockstone Buttress, to climb Slabs West Route (HS). This brought us out at the base of the Oxford and Cambridge Buttress where we climbed both Dexter Wall (VS+) and Oxford and Cambridge Direct Route (MS).

Great Gable, Scarfell Pike and Scarfell from High Crag.

This brought us out at the summit of High Stile and from here we were rewarded with some of the finest views on offer in the whole of the Lake District. We tracked east along the ridge that runs from Red Pike in the west to Hay Stacks in the east, and just before we reached Seat we dropped down to Scarth Gap Pass so that we could return to the valley floor and the awaiting van.

Looking up Warnscale Beck with Hay Stacks to the right and Fleetwith Pike to the left.

This must have been what Lehmann J. Oppenheimer was on about. The 'beastly grind' to the crag may have been hard work in the humid conditions experienced today, but it makes the experience that bit more rewarding. However, without that 'beastly grind' the mountains could not truly be appreciated for what they are. The activity of climbing was just a way in which one travels through these beautiful, majestic and omnipotent environments.

More pictures of today, along with the evening at Quayfoot Buttress and the day at Dow Crag, can be found here.

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

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