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.
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'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?
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.
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.
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.
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.'