Birkett's Dove Crag E8 and the Incident at Skelwith Fallsby Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com Oct/2009
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In August Dave Birkett climbed the wall above Inaccessible Gully on Dove Crag in the Lake District.
(See the brief news-flash from August: UKC News Page)
His new route is named Uphellya after a Viking fire festival and Dave thought the route warranted E8 6c, but that doesn't include several E-points for his wife who had to belay in an inescapable gully facing the prospect of dodging any falling rocks or catching a falling husband if his fingers uncurled.
Uphellya takes the south gully wall of Inaccessible Gully, and was considered by Dave to be one of the last great lines in the Lakes - there are very few left now that Dave has climbed most of them.
The approach is a scramble up to the worse belay imaginable, wedged in a gully with the sparsely protected climb right above the belayer, and there are some loose blocks on the route.
Dave said the climbing was amazing on this 30m pitch, very slate like, with a crux move going from one corner to another. Dave admitted it helps if you wear loose trousers!
The rock is reasonable but the crag is a spooky place to climb. The protection on this overhanging pitch is "adequate" with a crucial DMM Wallnut 4, that is hard to place, and was placed on the lead, protecting the crux.
Dave said, "You don't want to fall off. There are these sharp edges and I was paranoid that if I fell that the rope would be cut - that was always on my mind."
Dave, now 41, has had a good year and is still going strong. In August he repeated Nick Dixon's recent new route, A Thousand Setting Suns, given a grade of E9 (UKC News).
He has just done a new E7 6b in Galloway in South Western Scotland. He's spent quite a bit of time in Scotland this year, going on his annual pilgrimage to Pabbay and Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides. One Scottish crag he was raving about was Creag Nan Clag aka The Camel (UKC Crag Description) a conglomerate crag south of Inverness.
Dave Birkett has a narrow escape
Dave has also had two near misses recently, first when he took a slip on wet rock on Broad Stand on Scafell, a nearby rope, which he grabbed, saved him from a big fall and serious injury; but the biggest scare involved water.
Skelwith Falls, near Ambleside is a popular pool jump (and paddle) for the adventurous, Dave was there with two friends, Jess Houlding and Sally Wheatley, for some after work cooling-off. Dave, who has been jumping into these pools since he was a boy, went first. He didn't surface immediately. "It was like I had an elastic band attached to my ankles. Every time I was about to surface I got pulled down again."
This happened four times, Dave's friends getting increasingly worried and sure he was a goner. Then, whilst still underwater, Dave felt and recognised a hand hold on the retaining wall of the pool from his days playing there as a lad. He knew where he was and pulled himself out of the watery vacuum to safety.
Thanks go to Alastair Lee of Posing Productions for the photographs