The plan was to go to Dow Crag in the Lakes on Saturday with Rick, Keith and Barney.
Studying the weather forcast and Road conditions we weren’t sure whether we would be able to get over to Coniston, but it turned out ok. Last time we had ventured up to Dow crag back in November it had been pissing it down and Mike and I had had a hard, wet time on Giants crawl. Today was totally different as we passed by a frozen Goats water with Dow Crag bathed in Sun shine, you could have been in the Alps it was that crisp.
Even though we set off walking at 7am we still weren’t at the crag first, obviously crawling out of bed at 4am just isn’t early enough! We had hope to do C Ordinary 4/5 but it looked bare to us, it would have been a big boot rock climb, although it did look beautiful and enticing in the morning sun light.
Instead Rick and I followed a couple of lads up Great Gully Gr 4, the deepest line on the crag. All we could hear while we were gearing up was the leader struggling up the first pitch. When it was my turn I realized why as it had couple of hard chock stones to over come and a squeeze through a hole that necessitated taking your sack off and dragging it up behind you to get through. It was very unnerving trying to put your sack back on balancing on a small ledge. Finished off with a short chimney which I only managed to climb by having both feet scratching on one side and my sack jammed on the other. Hard work and very insecure inching your way up thinking your feet could shoot off at any time. Rick took the RH finish which follow snowy slabs and turned out to be very interesting mixed climbing giving Rick chance to polish up on his leash-less climbing.
It had been long time since I’d climbed on Dow Crag, but well worth doing in a fantastic setting, rewarded with some great views all over the Lakes.
After a spot of lunch we had a lovely walking over the Old Man, deciding to descend down via Low Water Beck for a look. I knew “and every one else on the UK Climbing forum” that it was in condition. As for Wales there’s been a frenzy to get on routes that have not been in nick for years and along with the improvements in equipment this meant that the ice falls where getting lots of ascents. As we got down to the top of the Beck, Keith and Barney were just topping out, great minds think a like. They had also started on off on Dow looking at a couple of steeper gullies which weren’t in nick, then ended up doing Easy Gully RH branch Gr 3. With plenty of time in the bank they had also had the idea to walk over and do L.W.B . Amazingly the route had no one on it when we descended to the base of the climb, and it would have been rude not to have done it. Rick’s turn for the main pitch and no question whether he wanted the lead or not. Last time I’d done the route I’d had to miss out this pitch due to it not being formed, not this time. For a Gr 3 it had an exciting feel to it with a short wall to a doggy insitu peg and an awkward rising ramp right with a step over thin ice with the water spewing out below your feet.
All good stuff and I could tell Rick had enjoyed it with his beaming smile. The top pitch, which is the photo in the Guide, turned out to be quite straight forward up a steep ice slab on bucketed steps. Great little route though which we recon had had at least 14 ascents that day!
We also bumped in to Mike Chambers mate Dominic who had follow us up L.W.B after climbing C Ordinary on Dow saying that it had improved with height!, becoming more wintry!
Maybe next time.
When we caught up with the lads in the pub it came to light that Barney had lead the main pitch as well, (His first ever proper ice climb!) Well done Barney and as he says “Buzzin”.
Yet another great day, how long will it last?
Roll on Scotland next week.
P.S See Ricks photos of the day.