No sleep ‘till buttress
A great day on Bowfell
We left Horton in Ribblesdale as we found it, full to the gills with fell runners, three peakers and those taking in the more genteel pursuit of the local gala. There was no room at the inn, nor anywhere else we cared to try, leaving our proposed three peaks attempt in tatters.
It was already late, dusk in fact and the reclining lion of Pen y Ghent stood tall against a crimson sky calling come hither. However we managed to resist its call and in a move which defied logic motored onwards to Langdale where come what may we would find a place to rest our heads. And in the end we did, but not at a campsite as they were all full and neither in a cosy B and B for it was far too late to consider banging on the door of some benevolent old dear. So, come 2am we were pitless and opted for an in-car slumber session below the Langdale Pikes, although not before a dram or two of Bowmore.
It went surprisingly well, for a while at least. At 4am Peter and I were disturbed by the sound of an engine and soon after a grotesque apparition peering in through the window. “Ere, Derek. There’s someone sleeping in this car”. Peter was keen to correct this erroneous assumption though his indelicate response is not fit for a family blog site such as this. Needless to say our new ‘friend’ soon left us to it and we managed another couple of hours kip before checking out of our mobile hotel and leaving the sordid, methanous miasma therein to dissipate.
We were completely banjaxed and could have chosen a lazy breakfast in Ambleside followed by a tour of the gear shops but under a clear blue sky and the towering fells there was never any danger of us exploring such a sensible course of action. No, there was only one thing on our mind…Bowfell Buttress.
In the fierce heat of the morning and in our woozy state the walk up The Band was purgatory, insult to injury being meted out by a posse of fell runners who raced past us as we lay prostrate and foaming at the mouth on a grassy couch. Still, we eventually made it to the climbers traverse and in due course our objective came into view. And a fine sight it was too; a 300ft fortress of rock throwing down an irresistible challenge and insuring that any thoughts of tiredness were washed away on a surging tide of enthusiasm.
I chose to lead the first pitch and carried on up the second, a ‘traditional’ chimney which is best described as a bit of a bugger. Peter enjoyed it too and followed my example by linking the next two pitches. I suspected a bit of gamesmanship as he had gifted me with the crux crack which from below didn’t look too bad. Climbing as well as we were there was little doubt that we would “piss up it”!
I threw myself at it with gusto but it was a stubborn customer and after getting past the hard moves I retreated from the top for want of a comforting jug. It was time for Peter to take his turn and he met a similar fate. A different approach was in order so we rested awhile and put our heads together. The answer was clear. We’d take our sacks off and haul them up afterwards. Lo and behold it worked like a dream and with three easy pitches left it wouldn’t be long before we were at top and celebrating.
Now, in our experience many mountain routes start steep and fall back towards the top; not so Bowfell Buttress. Indeed, suddenly things got steeper and a marked sense of exposure was added to the mix as I traversed out onto the sixth pitch. There I found some wonderful climbing leading into a corner and onto a small ledge where I tied onto a large but hollow sounding bollard, the integrity of which I had to question, inspiring me to advise Peter that falling off would not be the best idea!
Above lay a polished and scratched corner which we thought must be ‘the way’. Well, it didn’t seem to want to go so a quick look at the guide book confirmed that a new way must be sought, and it’s fair to say it was a bit of a pant filler. Up a wall went Peter until the hand holds ran out. The solution would involve a long and insecure step left with next to nothing for the hands to grasp. With not a little trepidation the boy made it, though not before I reminded him of my dubious belay. When my turn came I marvelled at his boldness and with my heart beating a thunderous tattoo I joined him on a fantastic stance on the edge of everything.
I also invited him take the next and final pitch which he did, accepting my invitation as I smoked a comforting fag. As someone who abhors my noxious fumes I fair recon the rising smoke provided just the encouragement he needed to demolish the final chimney, up which I was soon to swarm.
A final scramble and there was no more up to be had, Bowfell Buttress was ours and atop it we sat, enthusing as only we can on what had been a tremendous climb and every bit the three star classic it is said to be. A short walk to the summit of the mountain and a weary descent were all that remained before we could end the day in that time honoured fashion known as the pub. And what’s more, we managed to find two warm beds for the night too…Mike and Liz, we owe you one.