BLOG: Lakeland Mixed Climbing Part 2 – The Crack Direct, Gimmer Crag by Kevin Avery

So, having climbed Snickersnack on Saturday (see BLOG: Lakeland Mixed Climbing Part 1) and conditions being nothing short of gobsmackingly good, the question was “What would Sunday’s objective be?”…

Kevin Avery seconding pitch 1, The Crack Direct, Gimmer Crag

Fortunately the answer turned out to be a simple one. The Crack Direct on Gimmer Crag. Now Gimmer Crag is not the first place that springs to mind when you think of Lakeland winter climbing venues. It is relatively low lying, catches the sun and holds very little snow and ice in an average winter. In fact I’m sure I heard a rumor (which may be just that) saying  that first ascentionist, Dave Birkett had waited nearly thirty years to see this crag in winter condition. True or not it gives you an idea of the fickle nature of winter conditions at Gimmer.

Gimmer Crag, 5/12/2010

Dave climbed The Crack in winter back in 2006 along with Mark “Ed” Edwards and described it as: “absolutely mega” and “the best route I have ever done.” (See the UKC news report here)

I remember asking Dave, who was climbing behind Owen and I when we did Bowfell Buttress last winter, if he thought The Crack might have come into condition that week and he told me he doubted it, pointing out that it pretty much needed a cloudy day, heavy snow and hurricane like winds to plaster the crag and bring it into condition. At that time I thought it was a one in a million, right place, right time type route, but I guess I was wrong. Or maybe we were just lucky.

Like I said in the Snickersnack post, winter has started early this year and with a bang! And on Thursday 2nd of December Steve Ashworth (of the Epicentre – see their excellent conditions blog), Paddy Cave and Mike Thomas made a winter ascent of The Crack.

A Winter Ascent of The Crack, VII 8, Gimmer Crag, Langdale (from Mixedmaster TV)

With this in mind Manbeast and I decided to go for a look. So after a chilly night in the ODG carpark (the van heater decided to stop working) we flogged up the hill from Mickleden (awful!) and found the route to be in condition! In fact other steeper routes were looking plastered too and we quickly spotted evidence of an ascent in the vicinity of North West Arete, which actually turned out to be Steve and Woody (Epicentre dream team!) the previous day. The pair made a winter ascent of Asterisk, going at VII 7 with a crux at the top – see the blog recounting the first ascent.

Now I’ve done many classic mixed climbs both in the Lakes and Scotland but I’d have to say that The Crack ranks as one of the best anywhere, giving 3 awesome sustained and technical pitches with some funky turf thrown in for good measure.The climbing is superbly varied, at times insecure, at times strenuous but always high quality.

Chris seconding pitch 2 of The Crack Direct, Gimmer Crag. Having just completed the initial crux corner and turf-blob traverse.

Hilights include ‘can-openers’ up the initial crack on pitch 1, turf blobs on pitch 2 (after the tenuous, strenous  and footholdless diagonal crack) and the awesome long finishing pitch (good effort Chris!) with its tricky half height overhang and thrutchy finish – well, it was dark by then!

Chris nearing the top of pitch 2 of The Crack Direct, Gimmer Crag

Descending via abseil (once we’d found the stations!) we packed our sacks and stumbled back down the snow capped scree towards Mickleden, tired and weary but beaming too, happy in the knowledge that we’d had another top day out and a simply awesome weekend!

Gear for the route

Clothing for the route

Winter Conditions and Weather Links

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