Journeys in the hills and mountains
The last CUHWC weekend trip of the academic year went to Ennerdale in the western Lake District. As my last trip to Ennerdale was in October 2006, when I was rapidly chasing down my final Wainwrights, I had been looking forward to this trip for some time. We stayed at the Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre, a spacious bunkhouse with a nice fireplace and a resident cat. I shared minibus driving duties for the trip with Tom, arriving, a little to my surprise, before midnight.
With the best weather set for Saturday, Tom and I set out to climb Pillar Rock. Our plan was to do New West Climb (VDiff), one of the easier routes on Pillar Rock. We walked up Ennerdale, with Pillar Rock looming over us, and climbed up through the forest and the steep fellside to reach the scree slope below the climb. The west-facing climb was in the shade and the climb looked ominous. I volunteered to lead the first pitch and, with bags and boots left at the foot of the crag, began my ascent. It did not take long before I felt uncomfortable: the climbing was pretty easy, but some of the rock was loose, the hand- and foot-holds slimy and protection a bit thin on the ground, especially as we didn’t have any camming devices. Half way up the first pitch I decided not to continue and down-climbed, removing the gear as I went. Feeling a little dejected, we headed up the scree slope and around to the eastern side of Pillar Rock where we made an ascent by the Slab and Notch (Mod). This was easy climbing with a nice, short arete and wide chimney. Rather than abseil off the tat at the top we down-climbed back to the start.
From here Tom descended back down to Ennerdale whilst I climbed the remaining vertical metres to Pillar, meeting the crowds as they swarmed over the summit in what had become a glorious early summer day. I had hoped to meet some of the other groups, most of whom were coming past Pillar, but with no one in sight after I’d had my lunch, I headed west along the ridge towards Scoat Fell. At Wind Gap I saw Tom, Valerie, Daniel and Mohammad beginning to descend into Ennerdale. I joined Daniel and Mohammad for the walk down, while Tom and Valerie decided to continue further along the ridge. The descent was pleasant enough, though we, somewhat foolishly, decided to come off the track and to cross the river to save time.
After a nice evening cooking, eating and discussing future walking plans, I had a (relatively) early night, undisturbed by the singing emanating from the room beneath my dorm. On Sunday everyone was a little slow to get going, not helped by the fact that we needed to do all the cleaning that morning rather than in the evening as usual. By 1030 I set off with Paul, Larissa and Andrew to do the north Ennerdale ridge. Below Red Pike we joined forces with another group and continued along the ridge, with rain setting in as we descended. It rained pretty much all the way home, though this certainly did not put a damper on what had been another excellent trip. I shall, nevertheless, have to return to New West Climb some other day!