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Lakeland Summer Round-up

© Craig Matheson

As the blaze of this year's summer fades into an autumn hue, it's time to reflect on a simply brilliant year for climbing in the Lakes. There have been some impressive repeats, as well as a handful of new routes.

Craig Matheson on Death Star, Black Wars crag.  © Craig Matheson
Craig Matheson on Death Star, Black Wars crag.
© Craig Matheson

First up, Craig Matheson reports on his Lakeland summer of climbing. 'It was a busy period in the Lake District for many local activists, particularly those possessing a stiff-bristled brush. The protective armour of vertical grass and stubborn moss that usually bars entry to unclimbed features was starting to look rather dry and ineffective as a deterrent.' True to his words, Craig's summer of new route activism has been prosperous. More impressive, though, is his long awaited second ascent of Dave Birkett's finger-searing crack line from 2002, on Scafells East Buttress: Welcome to the Cruel World E9 7a.

Craig Matheson on the 2nd ascent of Welcome to the Cruel World E9.
© Craig Matheson

Craig's ascent marks the last of Birkett's E9s to receive a second ascent, thus breaking the mystique of these giants of British trad climbing. Craig reports: 'As summer drew to a close, there was hopefully time for one last route. Welcome to the Cruel World on Scafell's ferocious East Buttress. The line takes a razor thin crack up a seriously overhanging wall. The holds are small, the climbing sustained and every move is utterly brilliant. In the end, the ascent took everything I could give. I lowered off, mentally and physically exhausted. A perfect end to a perfect summer.' Interestingly, none of the trio of Birkett's E8s have seen a second ascent as yet (if you want to have a go: Death Arete, New Horizons and Just Another Lonely Day).

To quote the big man himself, Dave Birkett: 'I've always told anyone I met, the best trad route in Britain is Just Another Lonely Day E8/9 6c on Scafell, because it's a beautiful line.' Next summer anyone?

Craig on Prowess, Dow Crag.  © Craig Matheson
Craig on Prowess, Dow Crag.
© Craig Matheson

Also worth a mention are Craig's new routes this year. In the middle of Black Wars Crag, on Pike of Blisco, is an overhanging corner running the full height of the crag: Battle Star E3 5c. To its left, an obvious flying rib, which gave Death Star E4 6a. The two remaining lines are tougher challenges; the right hand partner to Black Star delivered Super Star Destroyer E5 6b and the bold overhanging and undercut arête gave Photon Torpedo E7 6b. Over on Dow Crag, Craig also climbed the right hand wall of Woodhouse's Pinnacle, a very overhanging arête. This feature became Prowess E7 6c and is apparently as good as it looks.

Photon Torpedo, Black Wars Crag.  © Craig Matheson
Photon Torpedo, Black Wars Crag.
© Craig Matheson

Over on the mighty Dove Crag, it was reported that Scottish talent, Iain Small, made a swift repeat of Neil Gresham's recent direct start to Fear of Failure E8.

Will Birkett on Dramarama E7.  © Will Birkett
Will Birkett on Dramarama E7.
© Will Birkett

Making the most of the tail end of the summer, Will Birkett, keeping up the family tradition, made the first ascent of Dramarama E7. The impressive arete can be seen on the road up to Tilberthwaite Quarry. Will did it as a highball, reporting the use of several mats. Will explains: 'It's a fantastic line. All the holds are there, what you see is what you get - no secrets or hidden elements to the climbing, but it's still open to interpretation as to the way it's climbed.' The route has since had several repeats, the most impressive of which was Calum Story's ground-up repeat, after a bit of air time.

Super Star Destroyer, Black Wars crag.  © Craig Matheson
Super Star Destroyer, Black Wars crag.
© Craig Matheson

Further down the road at Black Hole Quarry, Dan Varian, back from injury and strong as ever, repeated Dave Birkett's 2001 slate route I Got Horribly Sober 8b. Varian confirms it as being 'one of the best of its grade in the UK.'

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5 Oct, 2018

Brilliant Hock .Good for the psyche that.

5 Oct, 2018

Great stuff. Welcome to the Cruel World is such a quality line - it does seem surprising that Dave Mac wasn't hugely enamoured by it... 

5 Oct, 2018

I don't know all the details but I know some. I hope those boys behave more honourably in future or they won't deserve a place in those guidebooks.

5 Oct, 2018

Great write up Adam. Hopefully next year is the same. 

Welcome to the Cruel World is absolutely nails. Horrendously painful and brutally steep. I wouldn't be surprised if we're waiting years for another repeat. 

Even though a lot of Birkett's routes are surprisingly short, the quality of what he's produced is what really stands out for me. Nearly every one of his E8/9s that I've seen is a three star line and there are just so many of them.  


5 Oct, 2018

Well I know none of the details, as I'm sure many don't. Whats the deal?

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