Gillercombe Buttress and other wanderings: Another visit to an iron age hill fort this week, this time Carrock Fell in the northern Lakes with Steve. We had a pleasant wander up to the top and then along the ridge to High Pike. Carrock Fell is a bit of a geological gem. The hill itself is rough gabbro, the same as on the Cuillin ridge on Skye and not usually found in the Lakes. There are also pockets of various minerals with tungsten, arsenic, copper, lead and iron all being mined here in the past.
Thursday evening saw me walking up Grisedale Pike accompanied by thousands of flying ants who were loving the muggy weather. There was a cool breeze on the summit so I sat there for a while and watched the sun go down over the Galloway Hills and the Isle of Man. The hills were deserted. I returned via Coledale Hause and then along the valley past Force Crag Mine getting back to Braithwaite as it was getting dark.
I was regretting my evening walk at 8am the following morning as I toiled up Sourmilk Ghyll with a rucksack full of climbing gear. Clare and I were headed for Gillercombe Buttress above Seathwaite in Borrowdale. We had Dave the lurcher with us, Clare’s beautiful but rather large dog with long unwieldy legs and a complete inability to climb stiles. An hour later we had hauled Dave over two large stiles and finally arrived at the start of the route where we tied him up in the shade.
Gillercombe Buttress is a classic Lakes rock climb, 7 pitches of Severe climbing on beautiful rough rhyolite. I led the first two pitches and then we alternated leads. The wind got stronger the higher up we got and on the crux pitch I clung precariously to holds during stronger gusts and then climbed quickly upwards when it was still. Fortunately the gear was good and the climbing not too demanding.
The views were incredible and while Clare was climbing I was happily sat on a small ledge in the sun, hundreds of metres of fresh air beneath my feet, looking over Gillercombe towards Great Gable.
Gillercombe Buttress was first climbed in 1912 which was a bloody good effort. Imagine starting up a route into the unknown, not knowing if there was a climbable way up, wearing big hobnailed boots and protected only by a hemp rope that would snap if the leader fell. And imagine the elation when you find that there is a way up and it is one of the best routes in the Lakes and as an added bonus you haven’t had to test the strength of that hemp rope.
We reached the top and descended the loose scree path back to our sacks. After waking Dave from his snooze we wandered slowly down the hill in the warm sunshine stopping for a while to soak our feet in the cooling stream. Then back via Crummock Water where we had a refreshing swim to finish off the day.
It feels decadent having so many days in the hills this summer. Unfortunately one of the effects of Covid19 is that I don’t have as much work to do as previously, but every cloud has a silver lining and being able to spend time outdoors with friends and family gives me more pleasure than anything money could buy.