Harrison Stickle – South West Face
A Journey into the unknown
With a vague yearning for the esoteric we toiled up Mill Gill under a fierce sun, collapsing at Stickle Tarn where our day threatened to grind to a halt. It was hot, too hot for lugging sacks laden with climbing gear and what better place than beneath Pavey Ark to fall into a soporific stupor with your feet in the tarn? Unfortunately, with it being our last day in Lakeland for a while our collective consciences wouldn’t allow a day of relaxation so off we went in search of Porphyry Slab, an obscure Vdiff on the South West Face of Harrison Stickle.
Could we find it? No, of course we couldn’t! And what’s more, one of our number (Juggs) couldn’t be bothered to climb either so left his sack below the face and sauntered off to the summit leaving Lucie and I to our own devices. Now then, although we had given up hope of finding our climb, the face looked good for some exploration and a tempting tongue of rough rock threw down an irresistible challenge. So up we went.
At the top of the tongue I found a wide, moderate chimney which provided a delightful ladder up to a steepening. I brought Lucie up and then had one of my habitual wobbles much to my good lady’s chagrin. As is usual in such situations I was offered a raft of unwanted advice which I dismissed sullenly before biting the bullet and receiving a patronising “Well done” from she who must be obeyed. Not only that, before setting off I also had to endure a barrage of obscenities shouted up by Juggs who had returned from the summit and had taken up residence on a grassy couch to watch the action.
Steep diff climbing with a peculiar absence of nut placements brought me to a large ledge where I gathered myself for the epic which was sure to follow. I was imagining all sorts of terrible scenarios in which we would find our way barred by an insuperable obstacle and have to resort to a scary abseil retreat or worse still a helicopter rescue. I needn’t have worried though; Lucie led on and in no time was calling me up to her belay where the face eased off into a delightful airy ridge.
Now I could take in the wonderful surroundings and enjoy the building anticipation of hitting the summit to revel in the admiration of the gathered masses. And that’s pretty much how it went. I expertly set up my belay all too aware of the attention I was attracting (but exhibiting an outward show of superior nonchalance) and when done I called for Lucie to “Climb when ready” in the most masculine voice I could muster. Ten seconds later she emerged over the ridge dragging 40 metres of rope behind her; so much for my belay!
Atop Harrison Stickle we sat at length and gazed upon Langdale’s green and very pleasant strath all the way to Windermere and beyond. I felt extremely good, for Harrison is an old favourite of mine and to have ‘mountaineered’ a route up the very face of the bugger gave me a real sense of accomplishment and pride. Lucie less so, asking me why I have to take her on these easy scrambles?
On our descent laughter was replaced with concern when the big yellow taxi came to pick up a poor unfortunate who had fallen in Dungeon Ghyll. All’s well that ends well though and we are told that the faller is safe, well and will make a full recovery. I hope their ordeal won’t put them off the hills for too long and like us they will soon be thinking about their return to Great Langdale…they don’t call it great for nothing you know!