Chock Stone Gully with Barney Woodhead 7th Feb 2009

With Rick away skiing I was without a partner, until Barney called me up for an update and said he had a pass out for the Saturday. Going out on a Saturday at least gives you the Sunday to recover. 4am the alarm goes off, it's almost got to the stage where Mrs K and I are like ships passing in the night as she is just going to bed and I’m getting up, but it’s a small price to pay for a good day out. Not having been out with Barney for a while we chatted all the way there missing the South Lakes turn off and delaying our arrival at Dunmail Raise.
Obviously everyone else had also been on the UKC winter thread for the Lakes as climbers where already setting off. I was soon chopping at the bit with Barney apologising for dragging his feet, but he had an excuse as I had my kit off to a tee and I was well rehearsed. It’s only a short walk from this side to Grisdale Tarn and Dollywagon area is just around the corner. There where several teams below the classic Dollywagon Gully Gr 2/3, but I’d got my sights on Chock Gully Gr 4 around the corner which also had one team gearing up. We donned crampons and plodded up to tuck in behind them, I’d waited 15 years a bit longer wouldn’t hurt. As it turn out after a closer look they decided to do something else, which left us to climb at our leisure.

Not having done that much serious climbing in the past, Barney said he was quite happy to second the harder pitches which suited ‘Mr Greedy’ fine. Ropes tied and gear sorted Barney led off up the snow slope to belay below the first pitch, which from below didn’t look too bad. On closer inspection it was very steep and lean in places, proving to be quite hard and a shock to the system (a taste of things to come).

It’s always nice to get that 1st pitch under your belt and settled into it, even better when you find yourself a bomber belay. Now it was Barneys turn to cut his teeth on something meaty, I think he was surprised at how steep it was but pushed on and by the time he’d got to me he was buzzing and well pleased with his efforts. Having seen the next pitch he suggested we change places and I lead off again, which I was more than happy to oblige being the crux pitch. All the routes I’d done up till now this season had been on the harder side, unlike summer routes winter ascents vary tremendously depending on the conditions.
Anyway back to the route, moving back into the gully and up a nice runnel of ice led me to the notorious chock stone and a comfy stance. With 2 old pegs and a good friend I tentatively moved onto the left wall, with no ice to help it was very thin climbing up rock to sink a thank god axe into the ice above the overhang. Just time to get my breath back then with a few more anxious moves and a bit of knee work I was on safe ground, clipped into a peg composing myself. After a foray up the gully looking for a decent belay and down climbing back to the peg I made the best belay I could. At least it would be a good view of Barney pulling round the roof and I could give him some encouragement. Precariously perched I shouted down for him to climb, no doubt he’d be cold and ready to move off. It wasn’t long before I could see him come into view, and make steady progresses up the ice runnel to a welcome rest out of view below the chock stone. I could hear him talking to himself until he popped his head around muttering something about where do you put your axes, what did you stand on etc. I’m sure if it had been dark you would have seen sparks flying everywhere. I was relieved when he planted his axes in good ice and pulled over to join me, his face saying it all.
With the crux over I relaxed and settled into the top pitch, which turned out to be the most enjoyable with some varied climbing and the best belay of the day. We had hoped to do another route but it was 2pm, so time had caught up with us but we where both well satisfied it had been a day to remember.

Thanks Barney

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