Swapping Desk Glumness for Esk Buttress – Charlie

Sitting in an office all week can be a pretty miserable existence, which helps make a day climbing in the mountains so great. And on a Saturday in May, I had a fine day in Lakes with Will Marr, who is not in the TWMC but some of you have met him. The night before we decided that we would head for the remote Upper Eskdale crag of Esk Buttress to have a look at the Lakes classic of Bridge’s Route, Hard Severe…. An earlyish start was therefore required – which was of itself beneficial as we kept our Friday night intake of falling-over juice to a minimum. The promised hot spell was to arrive a day or so too late, and Saturday dawned cool, but it was dry so we stuck to our plan, arriving at Cockley Beck, high up between the road passes of Wrynose and Hardknott, at just after nine.

As we headed north up Mosedale the Scafell range sat squarely in our sights – and if that isn’t inspiring then what is?! An hour and a half later the impressive buttress was in full view across the Great Moss, a wide sea of wet vegetation, with the massive Sampson Stones to one side, and the highest of English mountains to the north and east. What a place!

A fresh wind rattled across the crag, and we nestled into its right-hand side, with a party preparing for the classic HVS of Trespasser Groove. As a result we started the approach scramble too far right, giving us a pitch of mossy vegetated mucking about – not to be recommended! Eventually we got back on track, by which time another team has joined us on the starting ledge for their attempt on classic VS (Esk Buttress has a lot of classics …) Square Chimney / Medusa Wall combination.

Then came the climbing. Pitch one followed tasty crack systems up to a splendid flake and ledge. The Square Chimney team joined us here and stayed with us on Bridge’s Route – their chosen climb having not shaken off its winter beard of moss quite yet. Pitch two ascended straight up a steep crack, with the impending headwall up above, home to the awe-inspiring groove-line of the (classic, obviously) E5, The Cumbrian. Save that for another day perhaps …

Pitch three traversed left: tantalising, tenuous and balancy. The fourth pitch traversed further left to a small and very exposed stance at the top of a pillar, which plunged straight down to the foot of the crag, now a long way away. The fifth and final pitch would have been straightforward when dry, but was wet and mossy. The holds however were not, and before we knew it we were on the grassy penthouse top of the crag, with primeval Upper Eskdale laid out before us. This is a magnificent landscape: wild rugged peaks, huge cliffs, dark chasms, and wide open expanses. I swear that I caught a glimpse of a T-Rex. Though it could have been a velociraptor. Or maybe it was hallucination brought on by hunger. But, whatever it was, what a brilliant place!

A long descent to packs, and a couple of hours trundling back out in the warm evening sun, with a spring in our steps, put us back at the car at 7pm. Somewhat later, back in the real world, we filled our boots with a huge curry and a couple of jars – our falling-over juice intake was again not huge. Though this time it was simply because the two middle-aged office-bound dads were so tired.

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