Quality new routes in the Lake District are rare enough at the best of times but whole new crags developed with three cracking routes in the E4 to E7 cataegory are surely a thing of the past? Not so it seems! Acting on a tip off from the man who should know every unclimbed wall in the Lakes, Simon Litchfield and Graeme Read set to work on Raven Crag in Ennerdale.
"I hadn't even heard of, let alone seen, Raven Crag (Ennerdale) until an in depth discussion with Dave Birkett over a couple of beers on the subject of unclimbed Lakeland rock ended up with him suggesting that I check out this steep unclimbed wall, over 20 metres high with an obvious, tiny crackline splitting it up the middle."
Graeme teamed up with Simon Litchfield, with whom he had developed Lower Tosson in Northumberland during the summer of 2010 (see UKC News – New crag in Northumberland ).
"So we made the drive across to the Lakes from Newcastle on Sunday 10th July this year for our first visit to Raven, walking in from Buttermere. We weren't disappointed, the obvious wall that Dave had mentioned seemed to wink at me, I abbed down to see if it would go, immediately I knew it would but at the same time I knew it wouldn't be easy. Simon, meanwhile, was eyeing up the groove line to the right."
The initial foray showed them that the main lines would go but they ran out of time on day 1. It wasn't until two weeks later that they returned and managed the first ascents of the prospective challenges.
Once Upon a Time in the North West, 24m, E7 6b/c
A superb, fingery and sustained route on excellent rock. It takes the line of the crag direct up the centre of the vertical wall following the obvious white streak. Although the route is low in the grade, the numerous rp placements take considerable effort to place. On the first ascent a DMM Wallnut 0 was pre placed at the crux. Start directly beneath the white streak and below a large flake against the wall. Climb easily up to the top of the flake then make a hard move to become established on the wall. This is followed by strenuous fingery climbing up a thin crackline to reach a tiny break. A further series of difficult moves lead to a good hold in a small break up and left. Pull back rightwards to reach a good flake, then finish direct.
FA. Graeme Read, Simon Litchfield 24th July 2011
On the same day and the next visit Simon added the following:
The John Wayne Variation, 26m, E4 6a
An alternative finish to The Searchers that provides good and well positioned independent climbing but avoids the shoot out with the upper groove. Start as for The Searchers. From the top of the halfway ramp a tough move out leftwards gains a rising crackline. Follow this steeply, initially towards Once Upon a Time in the North West and then back right to the top with maintained interest.
FA. Simon Litchfield, Graeme Read 24th July 2011
The Searchers, 26m, E5 6b
A fantastic route that tackles the obvious line of the corner and groove system to the right of the main face. Start on a platform beneath an obvious, innocuous looking corner/crack.From the very first move this corner is brutal, but eases higher up where the sanctuary of a left trending glacis is reached – gear can be arranged at the top of the ramp before the crux. A hard and insecure feeling move up a thin crack in the bulging wall to the left of the blank groove allows for a fabulously precarious position with your hands on a sloping shelf to be reached. A move back right to the base of a crack gains a bridging position and brings welcome respite and gear. Things ease with the final crack line, but the climbing remains steep and brilliantly positioned.
FA. Simon Litchfield, Graeme Read 31st July 2011
Simon Litchfield describes himself, "as self-stated punter who can occasionally climb 'ard things that given my normal approach to training, I shouldn't really be able to". He has been climbing for about ten years and is based in Newcastle although he grew up in Sheffield but ignored climbing for the first 18 years of his life.
Graeme has also been climbing for about 10 years is an Allcord Ambassador (UKC report). When Graeme started out climbing he attended a course where Dave Birkett was his instructor (some people get all the luck!) and Dave took him up some E6. The keen Graeme managed to follow and they have been in touch since. He describes some of his climbing highlights: First ascents of the above, the Direct Finish to the classic Childhoods End at Ravensheugh in Northumberland (E6 6c), 2nd ascent of Andy Earl's Crocodile Arete also at Ravensheugh (E7 6c), an ascent of Master Blaster Arete (E7 6c) at Rothley, first ascents of The Flying Fortress (E6 6b) and The Lost World (E6 6b) on the Bizzle Crags on the Cheviot in Northumberland.