The Nuttalls - Pillar High Man
A few days ago we received a last minute enquiry for a guided ascent of Pillar High Man. Thankfully we had availability for one of the requested dates and the weather was looking great.
I met with Paul and James at Wasdale Head on Friday morning after a very pleasant drive over the passes from Ambleside. We took some time to go over the day ahead and pack the relevant kit for all, then we were off. Pillar here we come.
Paul had started the 'Nuttalls' around 30 years ago (or thereabouts) and is now nearing completion. Pillar High Man not only stands proud of the main Pillar summit, it also stands as a significant challenge for any 'Nuttall' walker. For this is far more than a walk, although there's plenty of walking involved. More about the Nuttalls here.
From Looking Stead, we joined the 'High Level Traverse' - this exposed path requires complete concentration, but is overall straightforward. Soon we are standing by Robinsons Cairn and are fully exposed to the drama of Pillar High Man, such a magnificent place that it is. I have stood here many times now, but still it feels a very special place. We took a while to absorb our surroundings and consider the onward journey towards and up the massive bulk of rock that lay ahead.
Once at Pisgah, we took another short break and geared up ready for the climb. Firstly this involves descending a steep gully to the base of the route proper.
Slab and Notch - We climbed this 'Moderate' rock climb in 4 roped pitches, enjoying our time on each belay ledge and of course the climbing of each pitch, all being on warmish dry rock. Moves up to the 'Notch' provide the technical crux and this was soon cruised by all and we enjoyed the loft perch of the belay ledge immediately above. A couple more easier pitches and we reach the summit. Many Kodak moments follow and we take time to enjoy this very special place. For Paul it's taken many years to get this 'ticked' and is clearly and rightly a big day for both guys.
I beaver away setting up the abseil / lower and am reminded this will be Paul's first ever abseil!!! Well you've picked quite a place for it! There may have been the occasional expletive around this point, but both handled the descent very well indeed.From Jordan Gap we finished the technical part of the day with a grade 3 scramble to the summit of Pisgah before descending back to our bags and some much needed lunch.
Naturally we ticked off the main Pillar summit before setting back to Wasdale Head as the sun started its descent and the mountains cast their shadow over Mosedale.
An amazing day in stunning conditions. Thanks so much to Paul and James for sharing this experience with us.
Below is an account of the day from Paul, who suggested it be included here as a gentle contrast. Thanks Paul:
By way of background I am working towards completing the Nuttalls (English and Welsh hills over 2,000 feet and with at least a 50 foot drop in all directions). Pillar Rock is the only one that can’t be simply walked up. As I’m in my early 60’s I reckoned I'd better try PR sooner rather than later.
My son and I met Mark at Wasdale Head as agreed, added harnesses and helmets to our rucksacks and set off. After about an hour and a three quarters we branched right off the main route up Pillar on to the High Level Route to Robinsons Cairn. Mark advised us to be careful as there were some loose and/or tricky sections. He kept an eye on us at a few points. Pillar Rock came into view and dominated the landscape.
We carried on to near the start of the climb and Mark helped us kit up and checked that we’d got the important bits right. He then explained how bits of the equipment worked and our (limited!) responsibilities in collecting it as the climb progressed. The Slab and Notch route is clearly explained on Mark’s website and at SummitPost.
We set off. Both my son and I are climbing novices. Mark was absolutely OK with that and was careful to point out useful holds, dodgy rock etc. as we progressed. The climbing was not particularly demanding physically (there was one short vertical section) but quite exposed – i.e. a large drop if you weren’t roped and fell off! Three or four pitches and we were at the top – the hardest Nuttall bagged and a great sense of achievement.
The adventure didn’t end there, however, as we had to abseil 40 feet or so into Jordan Gap. I had never abseiled before and this was more unsettling than the climb. By this time we trusted Mark to get things right – just as well as the alternatives weren’t pleasant! The abseil actually turned out to be a good experience. A short scramble up and down Pisgah and we were back at our rucksacks and bagged the climbing gear.
We then took the steep path up to Pillar summit. The views back down this path over Pillar Rock and Ennerdale were phenomenal. It was not so much looking across or along a valley as looking down and having Ennerdale laid out as a map seemingly beneath your feet. Admittedly we’d had wall-to-wall sunshine and no wind, but having been over all the major Lakeland peaks I’d say this was now my best view and pushed Dale Head back into second place.
I asked Mark why he came over to Pillar when his base was in Ambleside and he said it was a special place for him and he tried to get over a few times each year. I have to agree. Just doing the High Level Route, skipping Pillar Rock and ascending to Pillar would be a very memorable day out.
The hike back to Wasdale was routine. Thank you Mark for a truly memorable day.