April 20th. 2014 marks the 100th. Anniversary of the first ascent of Central Buttress, arguably the most famous rock climb in the country. The first ascent via the infamous "Flake Crack" is often considered the biggest single breakthrough in standards in the history of Lakeland climbing. I first climbed the route nearly fifty years ago with Johnny Adams. On that ascent I stepped onto the front of the Flake Crack just to take in the view and noticed the front of the flake was less steep than the crack, and looked possible. I climbed CB several more times with different mates over the next twenty years, every time I looked at the front of the "Flake" before embarking on the layback. CB is a superb route, that in my opinion, would be even better, and probably a steady HVS 5a if the "Flake Crack" was not as brutal/strenuous... could I find an easier alternative? On July 18th. 1990, Mike Tooke and I ventured onto the front of the Great Flake, the rock was covered in furry black moss which hid the holds. I climbed with a wire brush in my teeth, cleaning as I climbed. Fortunately, the wall although delicate, is off vertical and not strenuous. Holds and protection kept appearing and I made good progress to the top of flake...job done. We considered the standard to be HVS 5a!
Over the next few years I received conflicting feedback suggesting the grade to be anywhere from E1 5b - E2 6a! I have always taken grading new climbs seriously...but, it is only an opinion and we can always get it wrong! Eventually, in July 2006 Mike and I returned to climb our variation again.
Stepping out onto the front of the flake I was surprised at how clean the rock was, the black moss was gone and a clean line about three metres wide led up the wall. Chalked holds were everywhere...on route and way off route! Our ascent went smoothly, I could remember some of the holds and runners. We both found the climbing really enjoyable in a fantastic position, but we had to admit that we both also found it harder than we remembered...but we were now sixteen years older and rarely climbed on Lakeland rock. In our opinion the grade should now be E1- 5b ***.
Tony Marr - 20/Apr/14
Superb story Tony - I have noted your other photos and they are great contributions to the historical section.
Your mention of climbing with a wire brush in your teeth reminds me of the time when Mo Anthoine and myself were putting up new routes on Craig Bodlyn in Wales, where we had similar problems with moss and lichen. I had just bought a new pair of Hush Puppies which came with a cleaning brush, which I attached to a string and it did a great job.
boje - 21/Apr/14