Anyway, a bit of blog searching and Huw was keen to head to the Lakes, being aware that the snow was easterly and a few hopeful blog photos, we decided that the pretty standard venue of Helvellyn was worth a punt for a early morning bash from Leeds.
Conor, eager to climb his first Winter climbs, picked Huw and I up at 4.15am and we headed up the A660 to the Lakes. Arriving at the foot of Helvellyn, at about 7.45am. It was beautifully white and just starting to glow a bright orange.
As this was a very first hit of this season, and Huw and Conors winter climbing was limited at best ! :-), I was happy to 'punter' around! Enjoyable climbing it was and well worth the gamble from Leeds.
We racked up, with standard first trip glitches like a loose anti-balling plate and overheating on the walk in. We decided, that seeing it was the first trip of the season, we'd start at the obvious central gully. Gully 2, grade I.
I don't think i've ever done a grade 1 before, the first route we did last year was a FA of 'Crazy Torque' which was meant to be a grade II but we decided the big corner crack/roof looked to inviting! But Gully 2 was supplied with frozen turf, great neve and Ice patches. Actually, the whole face is well iced and the ice is reasonably good quality. A great warm up, with some 'Steck' style running on the upper neve. Bliss.
Anyway, we topped out on Conors first winter route and he was 'buzzing', so we walked to the summit, seeing as the gully tops out there! and then carried on to walk down Swirral Edge, and off back to the base of Red Tarn Cliffs.
Viking Buttress. IV, 5.
Gully 2. Grade I.
Next up, V Corner. A grade III, classic reputation and we pretty quickly soloed up to the corner and Conor, very psyched, despatched the pitch with relative ease. A good effort from the winter 'novice'. Duck to water and that.
After this we had a sit around and eat and drink, I then fancied climbing something 'tricky' which i decided would be a toss up between Viking Buttress(IV,5) and Blade Runner (IV,4). Anyway, people began to amass at the crag, as the day progressed and for whatever reason, i didn't decide to get on Viking Buttress and went for the icy groove of Bladerunner.
Gully 1, with the groove of 'Blade Runner' IV, 4 on the left.
The initial groove was a little tricky on thinnly plated rock and a pinnacle of ice to stand on. I found no gear here and 'fiddled' for a about 5 minutes wondering whether i should back off. I decided to 'commit' as the moves looked good and i managed to make a further move to gain a crack where i stacked a couple of hexes and hammered them in. Good.
The next series of moves through the bulge are great, with a giant full axe torque you could hang a donkey off, then with much more gear, carried on up to the top bulge, which is negotiated with a cool seqence of bridging. A brilliant 45m pitch in my opinon and i was happy to see it received another ascent that day. Well worth doing!
After this, we chilled out again, then headed up to solo, Gully number 1. A grade II. However, during the day, the neve had begun to lose it's bite and the turf it's solid texture. We went up anyway as it was certainly still climbable, but it was trickier than II, in my opinion, the corner wasn't banked out with neve as i'd seen photos of, and the groove was plated with very thin verglass and slightly unfrozen turf. Anyway, myself and huw continued and topped out on Helvellyn for a 4th time. We were tired after our 4am start and decided to head home at 2.30pm after a fully successful day.
Huw and Conor and fellow climber on Gully 1.
Huw on the central section of 'Gully 1'
Tricky maneuvoirs in 'Gully 1'So, Helvellyn is certainly 'in'. The only route i saw that wasn't in was 'Rape and Pillage' which was bare, but looked hard to start.
The view of the rest of the lakes was bare. The western hills were white but not overly so, other than the Helvellyn range, the Fairfield Gullies looked snow filled, so definitely potential for neve in them, if not now then in the future. The rock over Deepdale way looked black though, unfortunately.
The conditions deteriorated during the day, as you'd expect. Not to any bad state, but the early morning was rock solid and blissfully quiet, we had the entire crag to ourselves.
A nice start to the season, with some nice lines ticked and a good day of gaining and losing and gaining height, good for training and such like i guess.