Both of the previous bank holiday weekends have involved good weather and very little traffic, both of these rare events had to come to an end at some point. On the journey up, while stationary in yet another traffic jam, I was pondering why I was bothering heading up to the Lakes for the weekend due to the awful forecast. After what seemed like a very long drive we eventually arrived at the campsite, and we arrived in between the showers which was great.
The first day was supposed to have a weather window in the morning before the rain arrived, so I headed to Shepherds Crag with Rich to get some early climbing in. The first route we jumped on was The Bludgeon, a two pitch E1. Rich headed up the first pitch which has some straightforward but rather bold climbing, which wasn’t helped by the damp rock. Once I arrived at the belay I wasn’t feeling too psyched due to the start of the route being soaking wet litchen covered rock, which means it has no grip. After traversing away from the belay I ended up on slippery rock with poor gear and decided that enough was enough and very tentatively lowered back to the belay, where I flicked the sling off the lip it was hooked over before we abseiled back down to our sacks.
At this point I assumed that my leading for the day was over as there was only going to be time for one more route until the rain arrived, we headed for the super classic VS called Eve. Rich lead the first two pitches quickly in one long pitch, there was some great climbing on the upper section of slab which had some great exposure. I lead the upper pitch which was in a fantastic position (apart from the belay in an ants nest) and we were soon at the top.
As the rain still hadn’t arrived wasn’t sure what to do, as I didn’t want to commit to another two pitch E1 just to get rained off. Due to this I headed to Finale, a very hard HVS which I got spanked on two years ago. It was very odd climbing a route knowing that I had found it really hard, however it was very rewarding to climb the route without too much difficulty and at the same time really enjoy the climbing.
Surprisingly after this the rain still hadn’t arrived, so we headed for the classic rock route, Little Chamonix. Due to the route only being a VDiff we decided to get some alpine practice in so only took an alpine rack and we moved together on the route, which meant we were able to climb it quickly. It was a great route, with a very odd and very exposed move off a sloping, slabby block on the second pitch. After this we headed back to the car as it started to drizzle, in order to go kit shopping in Keswick.
On the sunday there was a similar, but slightly worse forecast to Saturday. However, given the poor accuracy of the previous days forecast I decided to take a chance and head up to Napes Needle with Becky and Dave as I had promised to take Becky up Napes Needle if conditions allowed prior to the trip. Thankfully the same thing happened as the previous day and we had no rain all day, and even better the forecast seemed to put everyone else off from heading up the mountain crags as we had the entire area to ourselves all day which was amazing for a bank holiday weekend on an iconic route.
The walk in via Styhead tarn is a beautiful walk in and we even had some sun during this part of the day. We soon arrived at Styhead tarn to find it looking like a campsite with backpacking groups “wild” camping there. I forgot just how far around on scree Napes Needle is, but we arrived at the crag to find it deserted and the rock dry which was fantastic. I headed up to the shoulder on a route called “The Arete” which looked far more appealing than the more common “Wasdale Crack”. It was a bit of a one more wonder as you pulled onto the arete, but the positions were fantastic. Once we were all at the shoulder I headed up to the top of the pinnacle, and due to having thought about the belay on top before I got there managed to generate a really solid belay, however this belay did mean I was unable to move in any direction with did lead to some rather ‘friendly’ positions when the others arrived at the top. Dave and Becky climbed up one at a time before being lowered back down, once they were down Dave belayed me down, and due to a clever cam placement this downclimb was protected. From the shoulder we abseiled down to the base of the pinnacle, from here we decided to climb Great Gable via the VDiff ridge behind the needle.
Needle Ridge was a great route, while the climbing was never hard, the positions were fantastic. Looking back down the ridge into Wasdale as we were climbing was just fantastic! Nominally the route is 6 pitches, but I ran them together and we were at the top of the route in 3. It was a bit of a shock as there was still some good scrambling up a curving ridge to get to the top at this point, due to being a group of three and using half ropes, I elected to pitch this section rather than moving together as I thought it would be faster. Once we arrived at the top of the scrambling we unroped and made the short walk up to the summit of Great Gable where we even had a view, which given the forecast was pretty impressive. We descended the classic way via Green Gable in order to get back to the car, and as we arrived back it started to drizzle which marked the end of a fantastic day.
After two days of climbing with an awful forecast and having no rain, we finally had a day with a good forecast. However, I was very disappointed when I woke up to the sound of rain in the morning. After a very slow morning, with constant changes of plan, Rich and I decided to head up to climb another classic rock route once it stopped raining. We headed up to Black Crag to climb Troutdale Pinnacle. After a very steep walk up to the crag we arrived at the base to find it soaking, but we stuck with our plan to move together with an alpine rack again. Eventually we got above the tree line and the rock dried out, to leave a fantastic route which was really enjoyable, but would probably have been terrifying for a severe leader. As we moved together we completed the six pitches of climbing in 55mins, after a quick but lethal descent we were back at the car by the early afternoon for the long drive back to Bristol.