His first taste of Lakeland
Part Two – Pinnacle Ridge
Our previous night’s ascent of Blencathra had been a magical experience and for Nobz a wonderful introduction to Lakeland. This day, there would be no metaphysical musings or misty eyed dreams of utopia, just a good day out on one of the best scrambles in the district…Pinnacle Ridge on St Sunday Crag.
As I have said before, I revel in seeing the reactions of folk when first they discover spectacles of great beauty, especially when they come without warning, assaulting the senses with an irresistible barrage of loveliness. Such a moment I knew would soon arrive but I kept quiet not wanting to spoil the surprise as we drove south on the A5091. It’s a nice little road hemmed in by Great Mell Fell on one side and the lower swellings of the Helvellyn range on the other, unremarkable but nice. That is until the moment I had been waiting for. We rounded a bend and then ‘wallop’, the head of Ullswater and the surrounding fells. I was filled with glee and Nobz got all sweary again in a fit of disbelief.
We dropped off the polluter at the Patterdale Hotel and made for Grisedale, stopping on the way to say hello to a charming pair of miniature ponies with a penchant for polo mints. Now let me tell you about Grisedale. It is a dale that defies superlatives so I will try not to go down that road; all I’ll tell you are the facts. Its steep sidewalls consist of Helvellyn and St Sunday Crag. At the head of the valley, two fine mountains exhibit their finest, heavily glaciated features. It’s a place where extraordinary prettiness and genuine mountain grandeur coalesce to form a whole so pleasing that I am at a loss to do it justice. I suggest you go and see for yourself.
The first leg of our day involved a pleasant two mile walk up Grisedale where there was not another soul to be seen. I pondered on the fact that in frightful conurbations up and down the country thousands of people were crammed together and yet here we were sharing an absolute wonderland with no one but ourselves. I couldn’t help but feel extremely privileged and pitied those that will never know of the gifts our mountains give us.
Elm How plantation was our cue to stop procrastinating and get a bit of hard work done, and hard work it most definitely was. The Elm How zigzags can break a man and at their terminus it was a close run thing. While we were not entirely broken, we were at least a little damaged. Our next task was to find the start of Pinnacle Ridge which some say is the crux of the route. The North Western face of St Sunday Crag is a chaos of gullies and buttresses but with detailed notes to hand we soon found our ridge and hoofed up the scree to meet it.
Pinnacle Ridge is a grade 3 scramble with a short pitch of ‘difficult’ climbing so as a precaution we had brought with us 30 metres of rope and a small rack to protect any naughty bits. However, from the bottom it looked fine so we started soloing up without a care in the world. The scrambling was extremely enjoyable, airy without being seriously exposed and before we knew it, we were at the crux, a steep corner crack of about 8 metres in height.
It was time to take stock. I was happy to solo the pitch but Nobz didn’t fancy it so we roped up and I led, placing a couple of nuts as a token gesture. Nobz then followed and promptly slipped off a greasy hold. I was glad that I had taken the time to construct a decent belay and kept him tight until he joined me on a good ledge.
Next up were the photogenic and eponymous pinnacles, which I romped over, making sure to protect Nobz with sling runners on generous spikes. We both found this short but spectacular section great fun and with Nobz safely over, I soloed back up to pose for photographs, much to Nobz’s horror. With regret, we were nearly done and after a few more rock steps we were striding onto the summit of St Sunday Crag where once again we were treated to a fantastic view.
By now, the clouds were building in the west and threatening to engulf Helvellyn, on which we had planned to finish our day. We were also tired and it was with some relief that Nobz suggested we cut our day short. He had a point, we had bagged our peak and enjoyed a great little scramble, what point was there in slogging our guts out when nice food and drink awaited us back in Threlkeld?
In total agreement, we packed up, walked down to Grisedale Tarn and followed the full length of the valley back to Patterdale where the last rays of the day were turning the mountains red. We’d had a wonderful couple of days and Nobz is now eagerly awaiting his return to Lakeland. I’m looking forward to mine too.