LMC Borrowdale (Salving House) Meet - April 2018

by Neil McAllister

This article contains graphic scenes of bare naked flesh that may not be suitable viewing for those with a nervous disposition - you have been warned!

We threaded our way along Borrowdale in the bright afternoon sunshine, enjoying the woodland and crags that flanked this ancient valley. Not two hours before we had been battling with traffic and rain on the A1 knowing that Cumbria had been gifted a good weather forecast for the weekend ahead, how true this was to be. We hadn't been parked up long before John and I were joined by Phil and Joe at the hut, they had travelled up in the morning and spent a warm sunny afternoon on Quayfoot Buttress, Aberration (VS 4c) and Mandrake (HVS 5a) being the reward for their early start. They found the crux overlap on Mandrake to be marvellous, adequately protected with cams and a real treat when tackled with confidence. It wasn't long before Martin joined us, he too had blagged the day off and taken a leisurely drive up country. We soon descended upon the Ramblers Bar at the back of the local hotel and happened upon ex-President and Treasurer of the FRCC, the beer and banter flowed well, including such diverse subjects as youth, technology, stick insects and clubs in general - all in good humour. It's amazing to think that these committee roles support over 1200 members in a voluntary capacity; high flying executives in private companies would be on six figure salaries for this level of responsibility. Back at the hut Pete and Mary had arrived with the intention of bagging Scafell Pike (pronounced Scawfell) the following day. Ben Nevis and Snowdon had already been despatched in recent years, Mary now had the bit between her teeth to complete the last of her big three. Michael and Eugenie rolled up later in the evening and Tam arrived as we were all bedding down for the night, all looked forward to getting out on the hill and making good use of the fine weather and great location.

The day dawned bright again and apart from Pete and Mary we all trooped off to Langstrath in search of Sergeant Crag Slabs. The 'young uns' got a wiggle on and took the boggy path on the left hand side of the river. Martin, Tam, John and I decided to take the drier if slightly longer route along the good track on the right hand side, when drawing level with the bottom of the crag we took an immediate left turn to cross the river at a narrowing near Black Pot. Tam hopped across, I soon followed and was then surprised to hear a distinct swoosh and then an obvious splashing sound, turning around I set eyes upon Martin dunked up to his chest. Treading water and frantically seeking a way out of his icy predicament he quickly hauled himself up seal-like onto a boulder exclaiming "I didn't want to do that". Much stripping off and ringing out of clothes followed before Martin felt dry enough to continue up the hill side to meet with the others, not an ideal start to a day's cragging but he soon warmed up.

By the time we arrived at the gearing up ledge Eugenie was stalled part way up Lakeland Cragsman (HVS 5a) and Phil was storming up Terminator 2 (HVS 5a). Eugenie had omitted to take a much needed (blue) camming device with her, Michael had been lobbing them up from the ground but without success, the broad ledge below her now had 3 of these items nestled comfortably on it, all the result of failed attempts. I managed to find a narrow ledge system and soloed along this to pass one of the cams up to a relieved Eugenie, further upwards progress was soon made.

Our team's initial objective was the easiest route on the crag Revelation (VS 4c), the problem was we found it was seeping and not in any condition to be climbed. Tam suggested we wander across leftwards to Sergeant Crag itself for a look-see at the classic (be careful how you use that word) Sergeant Crag Gully (S). This we did and soon found ourselves looking up at a very uninviting cleft of vegetation and slugs, nevertheless we geared up and I quested up a near vertical bed of plant life to the foot of the gully proper. The guidebook enthusiastically describes the route as "It is at its best in wet conditions and a good route in a hard winter". I stepped onto the left wall of the gully and felt the uneasy sensation of smooth rubber on slimy foot holds, by now drops of water were finding their way down my neck and chilling my back. Daring to lean out a little I peered up the line of the route to see yet more vegetation and realised that much anxiety (and moss, mainly moss) lay ahead - a large bird then released itself from the chasm and startled me (I'm sure it was a Pterodactyl). By now I was sufficiently spooked and we agreed to make a tactical retreat from Jurassic Park.

The buttress to the right showed more promise, it looked clean, dry and inviting. Martin set off on The Great Wall (HS) and I took to the boards on Broadway (HS). The guidebook said "climb up the wall on excellent holds", damned if I could find such holds and certainly could not find any runners to encourage me on. With some precarious down climbing I was soon back at the base with a perplexed look on my face. Martin was not having much success either, he had got quite a way up his route with only one good runner to speak of, he was then faced with what looked like a mighty runout to the next bit of gear, are these really HS we thought. Back on the ground Martin and Tam invoked Plan C and agreed to an expedition along Cam Crag Ridge (M) on the opposite side of the valley. On the way there they explored some local mine workings (Tam showing his subterranean tendencies) before crossing the river again, this time successfully, before heading up to the start of the ridge. There is a much talked about but a well-hidden hermit retreat amongst the large boulders at the bottom of the ridge, I have never been able to find it but Tam and Martin did locate the 'secret door' and took a good look around the well laid out accommodation, complete with in-situ sleeping mattresses (do you think you can find it?).

Meanwhile I was getting stuck into The Great Wall and being a bit of a 'nut ninja' managed to locate sufficient runners to warrant progress, some good if not slightly creaky holds led up a shallow right facing corner and I was soon onto easier ground. John followed and we agreed it was a good route and worth persevering with. Our abseil descent followed a bizarre set of metal rods drilled into the rock; we have since found out that this is now generally being called 'Now for Something Completely Different' a 100m Via Ferrata type affair up the full height of the crag. No one, not even the locals seem to know its history but it is believed to be relatively recent i.e. created within the last 20 years or so.  We could just make out the figures of Tam and Martin way off in the distance as they scrambled their way up the ridge and then to our right the LMC youth still climbing all that lay before them on the slabs, with this John and I shouldered our sacks and made our way down to the van and then to the hut beyond.

Pete and Mary arrived at the hut having successfully completed their long walk up Scafell Pike via Styhead Tarn and the Corridor Route, they said the summit was very busy and was made even more sociable by the celebratory bottle of bubbly they opened on the top. Tam and Martin completed Cam Crag Ridge and descended (roughly) down the flank of Bessyboot and had walked back along the road to the hut. In time honoured fashion the communal meal was Chilli Con Carne with a number of side orders, there was plenty of garlic bread and salad plus Martin cooked up all the rice available which Eugenie later calculated could have fed 32 of us. Soon after the first sitting had finished the Sergeant Crag Slabs team came through the hut door having virtually cleaned up at the crag. Apart from the aforementioned routes, between them they had climbed Endurance (HVS 5a), Between the Lines (E1 5b), Boris in Wonderland (E2 5b) and Asphasia (E2 5b). Noteworthy performances came from Eugenie for refusing to terminate on Terminator 2 - despite not clipping a runner here and there; Joe for enduring on Endurance - considered the hardest of the HVS's on the crag; Michael for managing to climb sufficiently well in someone else's oversized shoes and from Phil for on-sighting his first E2 Asphasia. Most of the food, beer and wine were then consumed and by the time we had regaled ourselves it was time to settle in for the night, thoughts now turned to adventures the following day.

There were some tired and weary bodies dragging themselves out of bed on Sunday morning, Pete and Mary decided to have a relaxing/retail day in Keswick and to soak up the atmosphere of this busy market town. Phil and Joe took themselves off to Lower Falcon Crag but after the mega day before weren't 'feelin it' and experienced mixed results on Illusion (HVS 5a).  Michael and Eugenie completed Usurper (E1 5a) at the same crag, with Michael having completely forgotten he'd seconded it fairly recently. Martin was suffering with a swollen knee so decided an early homeward journey was the best thing to do under the circumstances. Full of energy Tam headed for Seathwaite  and scrambled up Sourmilk Gill followed by Gillercomb Buttress, then onwards to Green and Great Gable before returning to the valley and home. John and I sought out the rather secretive Christmas Crag (it's never too early) and climbed Happy Christmas (VS 4b), Christmas Pudding (VS 4c), Sherry Trifle (HVS 5a) and Alka Salsa (HVS 5a), the crag is quite remote, no one passed by all day, not even Santa.

Michael, Eugenie, John and I stayed on an extra night, Monday felt very chilly especially if you were out of the sun so the youngsters settled for some chill-out time around Keswick before heading back south, whilst John and I went to suss out Woden's Face. As anticipated the crag was too cold so we ambled along to the Bowderstone before heading across to Thirlmere. Over there we took a leisurely walk up the wooded fell side from Steel End and did a circuit around Harrop Tarn and Wythburn Fells before enjoying an easy and uneventful journey back home.

Another enjoyable LMC meet with plenty of good climbing, basmati rice and banter along the way. The full team consisted of: Michael Teanby, Eugenie Blyth, Phil Shaw, Joe Mills, Pete Moore, Mary Saunders, Martin Westmoreland, Tam Rennie, John Oaks and Neil McAllister (me).

 2018 01 Quayfoot Crusaders

Quayfoot Crusaders - Joe and Phil

 2018 02 The race is on

The race is on:  (L) Joe on Endurance (HVS 5a) and (R) Eugenie on Terminator 2 (HVS 5a)

 2018 03 Michael getting familiar

Michael getting familiar with the intricacies of Asphasia (E2 5b)

2018 04 Phil high up on Asphasia 

Phil high up on the bold central slab of Asphasia (E2 5b)

 2018 05 Mary Pete Scafell Pike

Mary and Pete atop Scafell Pike

 2018 06 Martin John Tam Langstrath

Martin, John and Tam in Langstrath

 2018 07 Martin early morning dip

Martin after his early morning dip, and yes - it was that cold!