Harter Fell, Lake District

Roger and I left Birmingham early on the Friday of the SMC weekend at Coniston in the Lake District.  We stopped off at Trowbarrow near Carnforth in Lancashire to climb the VS classic “Jean Genie”.  Older members may remember the David Bowie song the climb is named after.

Roger started up the vertical crack and one of the other two climbers in the quarry came over to chat.  Turned out that he used to live in Birmingham some years ago and, of course, he climbed with SMC and knew Ian, Mike, Roni, Brian, Phil, Misha – so Mike Todd says hi to you.

The MAM hut in Coniston village is a great facility for club weekends.  It has a spacious well equipped and social kitchen. It has 3 dormitories.  It is near the pub, the Indian restaurant and the chip shop. It’s a great place to stay cheaply in the Lake District.

At Walna Scar car park, getting ready for the day ahead

A large group went climbing on classic Dow Crag on Saturday.   A drive up the steep Walna Scar road saved a lot of trudging with heavy sacks. 

Dow Crag – A, B and C Buttresses

The mist cleared from the top of Dow Crag as we approached up the scree slope.  

There are many possibilities on the triple buttress of Dow Crag.

Tackling C Buttress Ordinary Route

Su, Donna and Ben climbed the ‘C’ Ordinary route, whilst Roger and I tackled Murray’s Direct – a brute of a route.  It has a precarious leaning start while some protection is placed – like Kinky Boots at Baggy Point. Roger led the “Tiger Traverse” which feels much thinner than it appears in any picture. On the second pitch I kicked my only runner out while making an overly dramatic stretch for a critical flake.  Oh my gosh! The final pitch, a steep corner, requires a long reach and a long neck. Clipping a sling which seemed to have been in situ since the 1940’s was the crucial move after a very sketchy sequence. 

Roger leading the Tiger Traverse on Murrays Direct

When we got back to the bottom of the crag it seemed like a good idea to climb up the ‘C’ Ordinary route to the summit of Dow Crag carrying our rucksacks and all the gear, mountaineering style.  This was so inspiring that Roger insisted on walking south from the summit over Buck Pike and Brown Pike until we reached the Walna Scar track.   By the time we arrived back at the car park we’d had a twelve-hour day and walked 10 km with full climbing gear. Roger and I were too late for food when we staggered into the pub where Rob Smith was holding court.  Luckily Coniston has an Indian restaurant – even though they insist on cash payments.

Jo and Mike started their day at Dow Crag climbing the *** Eliminate ‘A before them moving on to Abraham’s Route. They had a much shorter walk off than Roger and I, so got back to the car much earlier.  Rather than waiting for us to return they opted to walk all the way back to the hut, therefore avoiding the flying ant epidemic that was going on that evening!

Mike D climbing Eliminate A

On the Sunday Mike, Jo & Rob Smith and Jonty-dog drove over Wrynose Pass and climbed Harter Fell and its subsidiary tops, just managing to get back to the car before it started raining.  Donna, Ben & Su took a short but steep walk up to Wetherlam. They too displayed excellent timing skills, also getting back to the car just before the heavens opened!

Jonty Dog leading the way on Harter Fell

Roger and I went to Stone Star crag in Seathwaite.  The guidebook says “5-minute walk up from parking directly below the crag”.  ‘Last Chance Saloon’ starts just up from the tree. The first overhang seems tricky and unprotected, so Roger led it. Further up the holds do appear but the route is dubious, and possibilities have to be explored before committing.

Another climber, a woman seconding an E1 wearing a leg cast! (how common is that?) told us that the routes grading is questionable due to lack of protection: I’d guess that Stone Star was discovered by a rock star. 

The rain we expected hit the windshield the moment we got in the car.  There was a cloudburst as we headed south on the M6 on Sunday afternoon.  That was when I realised, I had let my sandwich in the fridge at the MAM hut and my camera in the dormitory.  Luckily my camera was picked up by Tony Hayward. He returned it to me in the school holidays, completing a complicated transaction.

All in all, a great weekend was had by all. Special thanks to Su D for sponsoring the Meet.

Paul Hennelly

Lake District Meet 2nd – 4th August 2019