First up is The Esk Buttress. I first visited this magnificent crag 7 years ago. Me, Kate, and Don did an overnight bivi after climbing Gargoyle Groove (which is an unpleasant route). The plan that time had been for Bridge's Route but we decided a short climb was more sensible as we had a very late start! So here am I again, this time with good friend Sam, on the long but rather lovely approach walk over The Great Moss.
Valley crags are all very well for fitting in loads of climbing, but for the true mountain experience a more remote location is needed, ideally after a long walk. The Esk Buttress delivers this.
We geared up well below the crag and stashed bags near the footpath to ease our descent later. The approach scramble started off easy but quickly became quite involved, and the rope would have been nice to have on. Sam set off up pitch 1 and made a fine job of some tricky moves, I'm glad it was his lead :-)
Pitch 2 was apparently harder (but wasn't) and gave wonderfully steep climbing on big jugs all the way. The following 2 pitches were mostly traverses and both were a delight, offering fine climbing in an amazing setting. Sam led the final pitch that led us to scrambling terrain and a traverse leftwards to gain a tricky descent back to the bags.
The sun blazed down on us the whole time, we climbed in shorts and t-shirts on a Scafell Pike crag, we had the crag to ourselves, indeed we had the whole valley to ourselves. The climbing was fabulous, as was the atmosphere, and what a day. When the weather is just right, there is no better place on the planet than the high crags of Lakeland.
On Tuesday of this week another trip to the Scafell area was planned. With the weather due to break soon it felt like a now or never type situation for a visit to the East Buttress of Scafell. I've climbed on the Central Buttress area, on Pikes Crag, and on the Esk Buttress. But only ever starred up in awe at the East Buttress. It is just so steep and foreboding. The Dave Birkett routes 'Welcome to the Cruel World' and 'Another Lonely Day' simply send shudders through my spine. Well the phone call to Tony confirmed our plan to tackle 'Mickledore Grooves' a stand-out VS 5a with a reputation fitting of any East Buttress route. It's well hard!
Looking at the boulder problem start made me feel a little sick, but the rest of the first pitch looked fine. Off I went, but with a number of attempts at this rather tricky start. Once nailed, the rest of the pitch was fairly straightforward, with just one more tricky section. The climbing was indeed first class and the setting as good as any I have been in. Tony set off up pitch 2, which I felt was the crux pitch with more sustained climbing. His dad had done the 1st ascent of it's direct finish (that's partly why we were on this route). With his typically calm demeanour, Tony cruised this pitch, not making a sound, simply becoming absorbed in the beautiful climbing, the airy positions, and the gorgeous day.
A scramble and short abseil back to Mickledore and a quick check of the time. Some discussion then followed about getting another route done, but with an early start the following day it just wasn't to be. We instead enjoyed a rest at the base of The East Buttress, breathed in it's potent aroma, and were happily content with the days achievements. The Scafell crags have so far only given wonderful climbing, and today was no different, well actually a little different. To be on The East Buttress felt like being on hallowed ground, a place where hard climbers go, an awe inspiring piece of rock that is genuinely very steep throughout. I just love it and will be back.
Walking out over The Great Moss is the long route home, some may question the sense in it. But it is far from the madding crowds of Wasdale. I saw only 2 other people during the whole walk out. The Lake District can be a quiet place even during the busy times, it's just necessary to use some imagination.
Big thanks to Sam and Tony for joining me on these wonderful adventures :-)