The Gentlemen of Central Gully
Fancy a full day in the Lakes? How about parking at
Stonethwaite, walking up Langstrath to Angle Tarn, then across
to Great End for a solo ascent of a big easy gully. We could
return via Glaramara and finish with a pint in the Langstrath
Hotel. I cant remember exactly when Richard asked, but it was
just before Easter. Steve was in earshot and immediately showed
interest, and so it was that the three of us were in the square
at 9.30 am on a lovely bright but cold Sunday morning. Not
having visited the valley for many years it was a pleasant
surprise to see again what a delightful and isolated place it
is. Soon after we had set off we passed a tent by the stream,
must have been a hardy type, the place was covered in frost! We
had the rest of the valley to ourselves for the long, long walk
to the head and then up to the ground above Angle Tarn. The
gullies above the Tarn were full of snow and it looked very
promising for our planned ascent of something similar.
On crossing the Col I expected to be confronted with the
sight of hundreds of ice climbers, clambering all over one
another on Great End. Surprise, surprise not a one in sight!
Although we did spot one lonely sole on the left hand end of
the crag as we traversed around the base. Just as we arrived at
the entrance to Central Gully so did two other climbers, damn!
They were going to pitch it, and as we were intending
soloing we set off first. Nice, in fact very nice, steady
climbing up to the crux pitch where Richard took the Left Hand
Branch. I was following him with Steve bringing up the rear.
Half way up the pitch the gully turned to small buttress
covered in a film of ice and Richard paused. Oh eck, when he
pauses the goings are usually getting tough! Gently and with
care he placed the just the points of his axes and pulled up
onto a reasonable foot hold. Then another placement, a move and
he was onto good ground. Two more easier moves and he was over
the top and away. I watched him carefully, intending to
replicate the moves of the old polar bear. Up I went,
confidently to the point of the delicate move, my thoughts
being keep calm, place the points and pull up carefully. I did
and managed to get the foot hold, then I realised that one
point had to come out for the next placement which would leave
me momentarily with one point and one crampon on a grade three
ice climb three hundred or so feet up in a gully. Yikkes! the
"what ifs" kicked in. Supposing I cant make the next move,
Richard has just spent three weekends on much harder climbs in
Scotland, etc. etc. I decided this demanded a longer neck than
I had and managed with care to reverse to the safe stance at
the bottom of the little buttress. Steve decided to have a look
and after a short pause for thought, true to form he appeared
cruise it. By this time the two climbers had appeared and I was
feeling like "twit of the gully". As I traversed off right to
escape, the magic words "tie onto our rope if you like" rang
out. What a team, the leader followed in Richard and Steve's
steps, pausing for more than a thought before pulling over and
belaying. Then the shout came down "you climb first and you
have a chance of catching up with your mates". And climb I did,
what a brilliant pitch. I untied and thanked the leader, his
response "off you go and don't kick the mountain down on us".
Superb neve again, with one small ice bulge and I was on top.
Just in time to catch Richard and Steve packing up after a cold
lunch on the summit. I explained that I hitched a lift and then
downed my lunch and a welcome hot drink. The weather was
changing and faced with the long walk back over Glaramara, we
set off at a fair pace. The length of the day and the weight of
the sacks becoming more and more evident as we walked over the
seemingly never ending hills. Eventually we joined the main
path down back to the village as dusk set in and we were back
to the car by darkness.
The pub looked good when we set out and it looked even
better when we returned. So a quick change of clothing and off
for that long promised pint. The landlady was glad to see some
customers and offered a half pint of a new brew to Richard by
way of a "tasting". His opinion was "excellent"
and we enjoyed our pints in a very pleasant pub which appears
to serve very nice food as well. Incidentally, its on the line
of the Coast to Coast route and if anyone is ever walking this
way you could do worse than take a rest here.
We drank up and left for home at a reasonable hour, just
as we turned into Borrowdale it started to rain. Next day the
temperature was on the up and by nightfall I doubt if Great End
would have any ice or snow left on it.
What a brilliant day, my personal special thanks to the
Gentlemen of Central Gully.