In the footsteps of Bentley Beetham

Cam Crag Ridge is one of the best grade 2 scrambles in the Lakes. Hard enough to be interesting but not hard enough that I end up wishing I’d brought a rope and someone to hold the other end. Quick to dry and good solid rock on a broad ridge line. It was first climbed in 1943 by Bentley Beetham who was a member of the ill fated 1924 Everest expedition and who put up some of the classic rock climbs in Borrowdale (eg Corvus on Raven Crag and Little Chamonix on Shepherds Crag). I have a bit of an affinity with Bentley Beetham as for most his adult life he taught at my daughter’s school in Barnard Castle and it was with members of the school climbing club (the Goldsborough Club) that he first climbed Cam Crag Ridge. His old hobnailed boots and long wooden ice axe are hanging in a glass case in the entrance hall to the school, unnoticed by most people as they hurry by.

Some days I wonder what motivates me to wake early after not enough sleep, to drive to the Lakes to arrive by 8am, then walk & scramble for 8 hours alone and drive home again to spend the evening catching up on client emails. Whatever it is, it never fails me, and today was no different.

The walk in along Langstrath was livened up by startling a poor wild camper who thought he’d start his day with a solitary naked swim. He was highly embarassed when I turned up, made worse by the fact I was trying not to smile and failing. I remember being in a similar situation myself on the Hebrides when we’d seen no-one all day until I decided to have a swim in the sea at which point a large group of ramblers rounded the corner.

I reached the base of the scramble. The rocks were still damp and greasy after the night’s rain, although they were drying fast. I started scrambling cautiously and awkwardly, then it became easier as I remembered how my boots grip the rock, and finally pure joy as I trusted my feet and movement seemed to flow rather than being disjointed. Onwards and upwards on the seemingly never ending rocky ridge. I came to a steeper rock face, more imposing than the others. I didn’t want to fall, too many people are relying on me to stay in one piece at the moment, so I started to walk round a path to the side. Then I turned to look at it again. It’s was only a grade 2 scramble, the rock was dryer now I was higher up and the holds looked good. I went for it and savoured the huge jugs taking me all the way to the top, feeling the space below my feet (to quote Gwen Moffat).

All too soon it was over and I was sat on a grassy knoll at the top looking down on the Langstrath valley and over to Helvellyn where some blue sky was starting to appear. The plan for the rest of the day was to walk over Glaramara and Allen Crags, then down past Sprinkling Tarn to Styhead. I might head down to Seathwaite from Styhead, or if I was feeling fit and the forecast showers weren’t too heavy I might carry on up Gable and down via Base Brown and Sour Milk Gill.

The walk over Glaramara and Allen Crags was very pleasant with a narrow path and few people. It suddenly got busy when I reached the large path up Scafell Pike at Esk Hause and there were several tents at Sprinkling Tarn. I was soon at Styhead and feeling fit, continued up to Gable. At the summit I stopped to look at the war memorial placed by the FRCC after the First World War in remembrance of their members who died in the War. I recognised a few names – Herford, Oppenheimer and Slingsby. Brilliant young climbers whose lives were tragically cut short. I wondered at the opening words – “In glorious and happy memory….” – which now seem patriotic and old fashioned in our modern world where preserving human life is valued above all else.

And so on to Green Gable, Base Brown and finally down Sourmilk Gill to Seathwaite. A cracking day out.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader, member of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and lover of wild places

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