With rain on the Friday and drizzle on the Saturday, it was on the cards that this meet wouldn’t be attracting a big attendance, but with two CMC members and two guests it did go ahead. I teamed up with Mr Wilson, and we were joined by Mr and Mrs Justice, who were confident enough in the conditions to cash in a good few babysitting tokens. I’m pleased to report that parenthood doesn’t seem to have changed them much; Laura being as relaxed and easy-going as ever, while Dan remains focussed and driven. I made a sound tactical move on the ascent to Stickle Tarn by engaging Laura in conversation, thus enjoying a reasonable pace, while Dan and Steve disappeared up the track like stormtroopers on a mission (sorry Steve, but I’ve played the keeping up with Dan game before).
Reunited at Stickle Tarn, Steve asked where our intended line of Crescent Slabs went; “through all that water running down the crag” replied an unimpressed Mr Justice, who went on to suggest that an alternative venue might offer a better return for his investment of babysitting tokens. I headed this off by pointing out that the routes above Jack’s Rake appeared to be in much better condition, and thus appeased, we made for the foot of the crag.
Dan and Laura chose Rake End Wall (VS) for their first climb, while being fearful of a nasty attack of aquaphobia, Steve and I ascended most of Jack’s Rake in search of an alternative warm-up route. Carefully picking our way past a recently deceased Herdwick, we eventually reached the foot of Roundabout (S). This is listed in the guide as having a very clean and enjoyable third pitch, but close scrutiny of the route suggested that this particular roundabout would merit the addition of a sign bearing the legend “Sponsored by Hayes Garden World”. Even Erica, who hates to see harm come to any plant, would have to agree that the first two pitches required some serious pruning as they resembled a wild garden that had got completely of hand, so much so that barely any rock was visible. fortunately the “quality” third pitch was out of view so we weren’t tempted to set forth on what Steve described as “the worst climb he’s ever seen”, and believe me, we’ve tackled some pretty dubious routes together.
With nothing else at a viable grade, and with the clock ticking, we decided to skip the warm-up, and head straight to the main event of Coati, a three pitch VS that was first put up as recently as 2011. The only drawback was the proximity of the deceased Herdwick, which despite my warnings to their owner, fell prey to the attentions of two Border Terriers. Clearly it was time for lunch, for bipeds as well as quadrupeds, so despite the gnashing canines above us, we tucked into our butties. Suitably restored, I set off on the first pitch, which was accurately described by the guidebook as being steeper than it looked (as they so often are!), but with good holds, improving gear and the deployment of a spot of guile and cunning, the steepness was outwitted and a fine belay arrived at. Steve followed up with a smile on his face and decided that it was time for a spot of photography. Alas, the camera was malfunctioning, the result Steve thought of having sat on it, so I’m afraid that there’s no photographic record of the meet.
Undeterred by the this setback, Steve proceeded up the second pitch, which offered a more gentle angle than the previous one, but with a conspicuous lack of gear in its mid-section. This was unusual territory for Steve, whose preference is for rather wide fissures measuring anything from 6 inches to several feet across. With no hope of slotting in his number 6 Camelot, which on this occasion I’d convinced him to leave at home, he continued to scrutinise the rock for any viable protection opportunity, but without any joy, so with tricky moves ahead, Steve took a couple of calm pills and continued on his journey. Several moves later, and with the definite prospect of rejoining me at the belay if he fluffed it, he breathed a large sigh of relief as a solid wire was slotted in. More deft footwork on the wonderfully grippy rock saw Steve through to the belay, and with a grin of Cheshire Cat dimensions, he brought me up to join him.
At first glance, the third pitch looked rather daunting, as it’s steep with few obvious holds and not much in the way of gear, but every time you move up you’re rewarded with a jug or a bomber gear slot, and with that super-grippy rock, you can always keep your weight on your feet. At the belay we both agreed that it was a terrific route, with continuously interesting and varied climbing – a real classic without the polish. The only drawback was the appearance of the midges, so we made a rapid scramble to Pavey’s summit where we enjoyed a celebratory handshake.
We’d hoped to do another route, but the attentions of the midges made that a less attractive proposition, so we descended the rake, carefully avoiding the sheep which now had a scrambler’s rope running through it (!) and headed out to the edge of the tarn to pick up some breeze before sorting the gear. From our vantage point we could see the Justices on Capella (E1), which Dan later described as being dry where it mattered (no sign of aquaphobia there then). Laura’s comment was that she had thought her tree climbing days to be over, but to avoid the wet at the start of the first pitch, she’d felt compelled to use it as it offered the best way of making safe progress.
All in all, a very enjoyable meet, so now it’s time to look forward to Gimmer in two weeks time. Fingers crossed for the weather.