With the weather being the way it is currently, I always feel I will miss out if I don't get out there and enjoy it, so yesterday I decided there were a few routes on Great End (Lake District) that I hadn't done.
My partner yesterday was a real blast from the past and I last saw him (David Hetherington) in 1992 at a 10 year school reunion...not that I remember him being there as I was distracted by one of my ex-girlfriends who was also in attendance ;-) and looking rather striking.
Facebook seems to be great for this type of thing and I have others from school who I chat with as if it hasn't been 30+ years since leaving school. Following David (Hez) on Facebook I was aware that post school he got into the outdoors a little more than he use to. He is now one of those crazy people who do ultra marathons and likes his hill walking. We nearly met up a couple of years ago to winter climb in Scotland but it fell through so when I give him the opportunity of joining me yesterday he went out of his way to make it happen, this included rearranging his work shift and informing the kids that the family taxi driver was not available. As we arrived at the car park at Seathwaite the car in front opened its door only for another friend to climb out. Simon Gee runs his own film production company (http://reeltimeadventure.com/) and has had a few films shown at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. We climbed a few hard routes together a few years ago including a second ascent of a route called G - Force up in Coire Fee Southern Cairngorms.
Walking up Grains Ghyl (Grrrrrrr!) in the cold early morning air, Great End slowly came into view and how magnificent she looked bathed in sunshine and snow. We geared up at the bottom smiling and looking at the fun we were about to embark on. Simon and his mate (Andy) joined us as we were about to set off. They had heavier rucksacks due to the fact they were planning to snow hole and Simon brought along all his Mountain Rescue toys. The usual ritual of a brew of mint tea and honey while we kitted up and we were soon heading up towards the start of our first route, South East Gully (SEG) grade III.
I had come up a few years ago to do SEG but on that occasion the route (snow and ice) was falling down around us so we had made a decision to move onto an adjoining buttress. No problems this time around the cold temperatures everyone is whinging about are helping to hold onto some fantastic conditions, in the gullies at least. A pretty straight forward first pitch leads to the first real ice section. This steepening can be a little intimidating for the in experienced/novice and I wondered how Hez would handle it. I should have had no fears as he came over the top of the steepening with a huge smile (or was it wind?) on his face. A couple of more straight forward pitches with the occasional rock overlap to deal with and we were at the top.
We descended down Custs gully (Grade I climb) which is rammed with snow at the moment so that we could get in the vicinity of Window Gully Grade III, our next objective. We traversed in above the initial snow plod to arrive at the foot of the first major pitch.
We had a quick bite to eat and then set off. This pitch climbs the gully over a couple of ice bulges to arrive at the foot of a 12 foot wall of ice and the belay. Hez came up after been bombarded from the ice being sent down from the couple climbing ahead of us. It was obvious he was enjoying the climbing, the situation and I'm sure his old pals company :-). The wall of ice was good value and this took us to the 'Window' from where the climb gets its name and to the steep right hand finish up another wall of ice opposite the window. The pitch was dispatched with no problem and I ran out a full ropes length to near the top. Hez joined me at the stance (actually seat) and we turned around and admired the whole of the Lake District still in its winter clothing.
The walk down Grains Ghyl (which I absolutely hate and despise) was made a tad easier by the snow cover making the bone jarring cobbles less of a problem, this along with the chatter of a couple of other climbers (Matt and Nigel) we had met on SEG earlier in the day.
A great day once again this winter made even better by the company and the reminiscing through the whole day ....Oh and well done Hez, not bad for your first ever 'real' winter routes.