Mountain Journeys

Tophet Wall Great Gable – Classic Rock Lakeland Style


On the magnificent traverse pitch - photo credit Susan Guest

Tophet Wall Great Gable

The Lake District is blessed with some of the finest rock climbs in the country and some of the very best 'trad' climbing in the world. The history of Lakeland climbing is long, varied, and colourful. Much of this history is centred around Wasdale Head from where Scafell, Pillar, and Great Gable could all be reached. Note I didn't say 'easily reached' for these mountain crags demand a higher degree of effort from anyone wanting to sample their splendour.

Our approach time today was circa 1 hour 45 minutes. Is it worth the bother? Absolutely! These crags are fantastic, full of outstanding climbs throughout the grade spectrum, so whatever your aspirations you will find a route to suit and enjoy.

The views enjoyed from the Great Gable crags and the Napes area in particular are mind-bendingly beautiful, with a mix of lake, mountain, crag, and farmland far below. Breathtaking is too soft a word, let's instead go for 'Breathless' (an E9 in the Tophet Wall area).

9 years ago I stood at the base of Tophet Wall with friend Tony McKenzie of IGuide who was guiding a young lad up the route and I got to tag along. I remember it being a fun and exposed route going through some wild terrain. This all came flooding back today.

The 1st pitch has a 'run out' start but soon the good gear arrives and all is well. The 2nd pitch is bold to start but again the gear soon comes very good, with a few tricky moves.

The 3rd pitch is a big traverse which is incredibly good fun with good gear the whole way. The handholds are huge but feet need to smear some of the time. The final pitch is the 'money' pitch! The guidebook suggests a 'sensational' position and this is so true, such a crazy place. But with good protection and solid rock these are moves to be savoured, enjoyed, remembered.

I definitely didn't want to rush, for it's days like these last stay in our memories for a very long time, forever.

To descend we abseiled down the 'Back staircase' into 'Great hell gate'. This is a steep scree chute that proved much fun to descend.

So why this route?
Tophet Wall is known as a 'Classic rock route' and this suggests a route of great character. Ken Wilson edited 'Classic Rock' with numerous editions being published and they became classic too. Inspiring a generation of climbers out onto the high mountain crags to sample the adventure they so clearly hold.

Neither Susan or Kristina (my climbing partners today) had climbed this route before, and with a great weather forecast it made a lot of sense to aim for the higher crags, this was a very good choice.
Thanks to you both for joining me on this adventure..

For more about Classic Rock routes we can help with see here



Susan on the traverse pitch - Tophet Wall Great Gable


Views over to the Scafell range are pretty good too - Tophet Wall Great Gable



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