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?”…
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.
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.
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!
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
- Black Diamond Viper axes
- Petzl Dart crampons
- Grivel Spring Leash
- La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme boots
- Black Diamond Xenos Harness
- Metolius Inferno Wiregate quickdraws x18
- Wild Country Rocks 1-10x 2 sets
- Black Diamond wired hexes
- Black Diamond Camalots 0.5 to 3
- Black Diamond ATC Guide
- Assortment of slings and screwgates
- Petzl Meteor III helmet
- Beal 8.5mm x 60m ropes – dry treated
Clothing for the route
- Teko Heavyweight Socks
- Lowe Alpine Powerstretch Tights
- Arc’teryx Phase AR Zip (on test)
- Smartwool NTS Zip (on test)
- Arc’teryx Gamma AR pant
- Arc’teryx Venta SV jacket
- RAB Generator Alpine belay jacket
- Black Diamond Impulse gloves (leading) and Specialist gloves (seconding and belaying)
- Powerstretch Balaclava
Winter Conditions and Weather Links
- For Lakes conditions check out The Epicentre Blog
- For a range of reports and conditions links try TheFrontPoint
- Needlesports: A great round up of winter conditions links, blogs, weather and the crucial SAIS forecasts.
- UKClimbing.com: Winter logbooks and forum