The Cneifion Arete (not quite)

My first outing of the new millennium was to have included a tow up the Cneifion Arete courtesy of Carol. However the weather forecast intervened and at the last moment sanity prevailed with the scramble being switched to Pinnacle Ridge in the Lake District on Tuesday.

With the dog already booked into kennels on the Monday I set out anyway intending to treat Monday as a rest day but by mid afternoon the weather had improved somewhat so after pitching my tent I set out for a short walk as befitted the late hour - up Striding Edge, down Swirral Edge and back via Catstycam.

The weather was surprisingly kind. A brief spell of rain on the lower slopes led me to don my sweatsuit for a bit but for most of the time I was just sweating profusely in the warmth and high humidity.

I found Striding Edge much more airy than I remembered it but that might have been because I stuck very much to the absolute crest but not without a qualm or two. At one point I found myself thinking about the exposure and almost immediately had to crouch down and grab a handhold. At another point where there is a rather Adam and Evish little jump I looked down to the left as I leapt across to see the memorial to Robert Dixon "killed on this spot". Wainwright comments that it is "often not noticed" which does not surprise me as the well trodden path was well down to the right as it is for most of the ridge. The summit was in mist and I did not linger. Swirral Edge was slippery in places but not otherwise exciting and the view from Catstycam would have been better had the clouds been higher.

Curiously the route was almost deserted - I actually passed only about 5 or 6 other walkers and saw only a few more at a distance. I have seen far more people in that area on a bad day in the middle of winter.

On Tuesday morning I met up with Carol and Liz in a car park in Patterdale as previously arranged. The weather had started dry and colder but slowly deteriorated so by the time we had started up the zigzags waterproofs were required from time to time. Unfortunately we climbed too high too early before deciding to drop back down again as an easier option to contouring round. Carol was looking for the faint path that should have led us to the foot of Pinnacle Ridge but although we collected a varied selection of faint horizontal paths on the way back down none appeared to fit the bill and we overshot and later had to regain most of the lost height.

The start of Pinnacle Ridge is not exactly obvious but we eventually located it just to the left of a prominent gully. It starts off easily enough and I was going quite well when Carol pointed to a steep holdless slab on the skyline and suggested the route went up that. Actually the route skirted the slab rather than going directly up it but the top rope was a comfort nevertheless.

Carol and I remained roped up so the next section must have been easy as we moved together until we arrived at the hardest point on the route, a steep V shaped cleft. Again the rope gave me the confidence to struggle up the wet rock and after Liz (who had so far soloed the route) had joined us I was sent forward a short way over the pinnacles to a notch after which there is a short but steep descent. The pinnacles looked desperate but proved much easier although I was alarmed by a sharp snapping sound as I moved onto the platform before the notch. There was then a short intermission while I jury-rigged a rucksack strap that had parted at the buckle fixing.

Liz too used the rope for the short climb down leaving Carol to descend last. One short section later and we had finished the route but not the hill. A slog up some scree brought us out on the ridge where Carol waited while Liz and I visited the Summit of St. Sunday Crag which was somewhat further in the mist than I had anticipated.

The descent back to Patterdale was uneventful but the rain that had eased (maybe even stopped briefly) as we tackled the harder part of the route gradually got worse and on our return the partly flooded car park suggested the valley had suffered more than we had.

The proximity of the White Lion was too much to resist and a quick drink and a bar meal provided a pleasant ending to what was an enjoyable day out despite the weather.

Carol took the only photo of the day while we were eating lunch in the rain.

Thanks again to Carol and Liz for taking this old has-been up a scramble he would never have gone near on his own. Now what about that Cneifion Arete in the dry? ;-)

For Carol and Liz it had been just a day trip but I had paid for 2 nights on the campsite so I remained to get my moneys worth fully intending to depart next morning if it was still raining.

Next morning it was still raining and the cloud was down but I was feeling a bit stiff so I thought another walk would loosen me up a bit before the drive home. Nothing very much, just up Sticks Pass, over Raise and down the main drag. Waterproofs all the way, a cold wind on top and nothing to see. Well at least I got some exercise but it did nothing to loosen the stiffness in my thighs which, incidentally, is still there 2 days on.

Again the hills were virtually deserted. On the way up I overtook 2 yellow blobs while they were taking a different route to me through the mine workings and on the way down I met a mountain biker.

I carried my GPS (etrex summit) all 3 days but the more I use it (which isn't much) the less I am inclined to trust it. It recorded a pretty reasonable track for Monday, failed to save the Tuesday track and provided a spiders web for Wednesday. According to my trusty piece of string I did only 7 miles on Monday and 8 on Wednesday but the GPS track said 7.5 (fair enough) and 11.8 (outrageous) respectively.


Roger Chapman

August 2001

Looking North over the Aire Valley (and Marley Gasworks) to Rombolds Moor