Saturday, 4 February 2012

Plaque Route (IV,4), Bowfell Buttress

With lots of fresh snow and cold temperatures in the Lakes it seemed unnecessary to drive all the way to Lochnagar this weekend, as had been the original plan. The high winds forecast in the Scotland also looked to be less of an issue in the Lakes. Mike and me made a late decision to switch plans to the Lakes and drove to Ambleside.

The plan had been the climb Bowfell Buttress (V,6) today but there were multiple teams queuing at the bottom of the route on our arrival with teams seemingly occupying every belay above. My friend Ryan was starting the second pitch. We waited but things weren't progressing quick enough. People were struggling on the first pitch. With the crux not being until the third pitch it was quite likely that even when we did get on the route there would be further delays higher up. We didn't fancy waiting around until mid-afternoon and then climbing half the route in the dark and therefore cut our losses and climbed Plaque Route (IV,4) further left. Not surprisingly Plaque Route had nobody on it.

The walk-in
A busy day on Bowfell Buttress
The guidebook mentioned that this route 'lacks any real line' which was more than evident on the first pitch. I climbed what I interpreted to be the route based on the guidebook topo but this led me to ground that was far beyond what you would expect for tech 4. With negligible neve or ice build-up I was forced to abseil from a small bush halfway back to Mike. I explored further left and found way that was more amiable (although it still felt tech 5), involving a short delicate rising traverse back right and then up a wide crack. Things eased after the first pitch with Mike's second pitch weighing in at around tech 4, and my third pitch tech 2/3.

Mike traversing left to the wide crack
Mike climbing the wide crack
My Skoda Fabia was buried under a foot of fresh snow by the time we arrived back at the car park at 8pm. We managed to wheel spin our way out of the car park and somehow made it all the way back to Ambleside. My friend Ryan meanwhile managed to climb Bowfell Buttress but did not arrive back at the car park until a couple of hours after us. By then any chance to escape the car park and make it back to Ambleside were gone. The hotel was full and so in biblical fashion they were forced to sleep in a nearby shed. At least our decision to decline Bowfell Buttress today had been vindicated! Next time I attempt this route it will be with an Alpine start to beat rush hour.

Heavy snows today

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