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Great End via Skew Gill

Great End via Skew Gill


Postby dav2930 » Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:00 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Great End

Hewitts included on this walk: Great End

Date walked: 14/02/2016

Time taken: 6.5

Distance: 13.7 km

Ascent: 820m

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This wasn't one of our most successful trips, as we didn't achieve everything we'd set out to. :roll: But it was fun all the same! :D

The original plan was to climb Skew Gill then Cust's Gully to the summit of Great End, then on to bag Ill Crag and Broad Crag (Hewitts), then maybe Scafell Pike and back to Sty Head via the Corridor. It didn't quite work out like that, largely due to conditions in Skew Gill. :shock: :lol:


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The snowline was disappointingly high - around 1800 ft. - which didn't bode well for Skew Gill. Ideally, a snow climb ought to have some snow in it! But since the bottom of Skew Gill is at about 1600 ft., it was obvious even to us that it would likely be more of a scramble than a snow plod. Plenty of time to chew that over on the way up from Seathwaite to Sty Head.

P1010301.JPG
Downstream from Stockly Bridge


When we arrived at Sty Head our suspicions were starkly confirmed.

P1010304.JPG
Great End from Sty Head. Skew Gill is the big gully centre pic; not much snow in it!


P1010305.JPG
Sty Head Tarn


We were tempted to bypass Skew Gill altogether and make straight for Cust's. That would have made more sense. But with that innocuous little phrase 'let's have a look', curiosity won out over sense. :roll:

P1010306.JPG
Piers Gill and Lingmell from Sty Head


So we made our way to the foot of the gill.

P1010307.JPG
Looking up Skew Gill from just above the Corridor path.


P1010308.JPG
Wasdale from the foot of the gill


The start of the gill is very easy going, but higher up it begins to steepen as the walls narrow.

P1010309.JPG
Starting to get interesting - just a dusting of snow but the rocks were getting icier.


In the almost claustrophobic confines of the gill, the watercourse itself wasn't entirely frozen, but the spray from it had formed a veneer of ice on the surrounding rocks. The higher we got, the more we were forced into the bed of the stream, and the thicker the coating of ice. After one or two dicey moments we decided it was time to put our Microspikes on. These helped greatly.

P1010310.JPG
Looking down the gill


P1010311.JPG
Great Gable viewed through the portals of Skew Gill


We were forced to scramble up the stream itself at times and the holds needed to be used with circumspection, being covered in a good inch of pure water ice. There were two steepenings which proved quite tricky, especially the second one, which led to a snowy ledge at the foot of the headwall.

P1010312.JPG
Looking down from the base of the headwall


At this point we felt kind of committed. Going back down wouldn't have been easy. The headwall, our only other escape, didn't look that easy either! :shock:

P1010313.JPG
Luckily that's not the way up.


P1010314.JPG
That's the way up.


The route up the headwall was up a slanting groove/chimney line coated with thick water ice and hung with icicles. So it was off with the Microspikes, on with the crampons and ice axe at the ready. In practice it turned out to be even trickier than it looked; we probably could have done with two climbing axes. Just over half way up I stepped up onto a chockstone in a recess and my rucksack brushed against some long icicles hanging down from above, which clattered down to land at Karl's feet. Fortunately he hadn't quite got started. He said he didn't like the look of it, and I didn't blame him. But I was a bit concerned about the alternative. I doubted I could reverse what I'd just climbed. Karl would have to reverse the entire gully and I'd have to go round and meet him at the bottom. I made a few more moves up and got to a position where I could see the way ahead was easier, and called down to Karl that once he got here it was fine. This reassured him and once he'd cracked the first few moves he found his mojo and came up in fine style. Phew!

Just a few awkward but less exposed moves remained and then we were onto steep snow, then easier gradients. We followed the shelf up to a point where we could see Cust's Gully above and left, disappearing into the mist. It certainly had snow in it, but it looked a bit lean. The snow we were walking in wasn't as consolidated as we'd hoped it would be. Really we felt we'd had enough excitement for one day, so it was easy to find excuses for missing out Cust's! The lure of coffee and food at the cross-walls shelter below Esk Hause was just too strong to resist, so that's where we headed, cutting across the slopes just below the crags of Great End. A couple of folks were making their way very slowly and hesitantly up to Cust's. Further on we looked up into Central Gully and couldn't see anyone in it.

At the shelter we sat down and relaxed with our coffees and soggy sandwiches, and it was only then that Karl noticed one of his trekking poles was missing. It must have worked loose from the fixings on his rucksack at some point in the gill. All the while a very bold and/or hungry raven had been watching us from just a few yards away. We wondered if this was some kind of omen. :lol:

P1010315.JPG
Nevermore! Was he trying to tell us something?


So now it was decision time. The mist was down on the summits; it would be pretty much whiteout conditions up there. But it was only about 1.20pm, so it would be a shame just to go back. We figured that locating the exact summits of Ill Crag and Broad Crag could be problematic; we wouldn't be able to tick them off with certainty, so we settled for the modest aim of getting to the top of Great End. By the route from Esk Hause via Calf Cove, this was a very easy plod - just what we fancied! :lol:

We went to the west cairn first as it's an excellent viewpoint, but of course there was no view :roll: .

P1010317.JPG
Karl at the west cairn on Great End


P1010319.JPG
Not quite a whiteout!


But then, whilst taking a bearing for the summit, the mist suddenly cleared and we were treated to some fabulous views! :o

P1010321.JPG
The clouds have parted! View of Gable etc.


P1010322.JPG
Looking towards Scafell Pike


P1010323.JPG
Lingmell


P1010324.JPG
The Gables and Sty Head


P1010325.JPG
Great Gable and Kirk Fell


P1010326.JPG
Looking to the summit


P1010328.JPG
At the summit cairn


P1010330.JPG
Ill Crag and Scafell Pike mocking us


P1010331.JPG
Eskdale


What an unexpected reward that was! :D

It was a nice, easy descent back to Esk Hause, then the long plod down Grains Gill back to Seathwaite. The path was icy in places so the Microspikes came in handy. We rounded off what had been an interesting and varied day, if not an entirely successful one, with a pint at the Riverside Bar in Rosthwaite. Grand as owt! :D
Last edited by dav2930 on Fri Feb 19, 2016 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dav2930
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby mamoset » Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:22 pm

Well done on tackling Skew Gill in those conditions :clap: . It's tricky enough the twice i've scrambled it in dry summer condition.
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby trailmasher » Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:36 pm

An exciting and great report dav with some great atmospheric pics recording it all :clap: and well done for knowing when you've had enough :clap:. That struggle warranted more than one pint I'm sure :lol:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dav2930 » Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:25 pm

mamoset wrote:Well done on tackling Skew Gill in those conditions :clap: . It's tricky enough the twice i've scrambled it in dry summer condition.

Thanks Mamoset. :D I've never tried Skew Gill as a summer scramble, though I've done it a few times before in winter when it's been full of snow. On those occasions the scrambly bits were banked out and even the headwall was just a slight steepening of the snow - much easier!

trailmasher wrote:An exciting and great report dav with some great atmospheric pics recording it all :clap: and well done for knowing when you've had enough :clap:. That struggle warranted more than one pint I'm sure :lol:

Thank you TM. :D If only I hadn't been driving! :lol:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby ChrisW » Sat Feb 20, 2016 6:41 am

Well worth it for the views Dav, I could feel your pain in that gully specially when you said
I doubted I could reverse what I'd just climbed
I went out for a wee scramble yesterday and got myself in exactly that situation and ended up with a 750m scramble that absolutely knackered me for the day :lol:

Anyway, great report mate with perfect shots of the lakes looking their very best, and well done on successfully negotiating that ice wall in the gully :clap:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby rockhopper » Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:23 am

A great read but, jings, that sounded a bit of challenge - think I'll stick to easier walks in winter. Still, glad to see it was all worthwhile when it cleared higher up - cheers :)
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dav2930 » Sun Feb 21, 2016 3:11 pm

ChrisW wrote:Well worth it for the views Dav, I could feel your pain in that gully specially when you said
I doubted I could reverse what I'd just climbed
I went out for a wee scramble yesterday and got myself in exactly that situation and ended up with a 750m scramble that absolutely knackered me for the day :lol:

Anyway, great report mate with perfect shots of the lakes looking their very best, and well done on successfully negotiating that ice wall in the gully :clap:

Thanks Chris :D Yeah that feeling of no going back certainly keeps you on your toes! But finding yourself committed to a 750m job is something else - that's bigger than most climbs in the Alps :shock: Respect!

rockhopper wrote:A great read but, jings, that sounded a bit of challenge - think I'll stick to easier walks in winter. Still, glad to see it was all worthwhile when it cleared higher up - cheers :)

Thanks RH :D Don't blame you for sticking to easier walks in winter. That's just how we felt once we'd escaped Skew Gill! :lol:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby Guinessman » Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:15 pm

Still looks good day out.

Had it mind to go straight up the shoulder of Great End from Styhead for a while now.

Custs gully brings back memories, haven't been there since the early 90,s when we did traversing on great snow right from the bottom of Central gully. I think it might have been April 96.
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dav2930 » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:40 pm

Guinessman wrote:Still looks good day out.

Had it mind to go straight up the shoulder of Great End from Styhead for a while now.

Custs gully brings back memories, haven't been there since the early 90,s when we did traversing on great snow right from the bottom of Central gully. I think it might have been April 96.

Thanks GM :D Yeah it was still a good day. The shoulder looks a good way up (haven't been up that way myself yet), but I do like Cust's when it's in condition - probably the most atmospheric grade l gully in the Lakes. Looked a bit lean that day, but then I think we were looking for excuses not to do it!
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby Guinessman » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:25 pm

Got a free day tomorrow and the weather looks a perfect winter day. Saw some pictures on FB this morning with snow at Braithwaite so I'm going to have a look up to Styhead and check out the shoulder of Great end running straight up from the path from Styhead.
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dav2930 » Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:18 pm

Guinessman wrote:Got a free day tomorrow and the weather looks a perfect winter day. Saw some pictures on FB this morning with snow at Braithwaite so I'm going to have a look up to Styhead and check out the shoulder of Great end running straight up from the path from Styhead.

Sounds good GM, good luck. I'm up in West Highlands at present. There's tons of snow on mts - really hard going in places but beginning to firm up. Have done Gulvain, Meall Ghlas & Sgiath Chuill so far, plus an attempt on Creag Meagaidh aborted due to thigh deep wading!
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby Guinessman » Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:53 pm

I've held off Scotland for that reason, although I,m aching to get up there. Did Meall Ghlas & Sgiath Chuill in the middle of December in similar conditions. The bit in the middle was deep soft snow. Hopefully I can get up there middle of March and then I've got 10 days beginning of April to hammer away at the munros. Keep on enjoying :clap:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dittzzy » Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:59 pm

rockhopper wrote:A great read but, jings, that sounded a bit of challenge - think I'll stick to easier walks in winter. Still, glad to see it was all worthwhile when it cleared higher up - cheers :)



I definitely fit into the description of "Wuss" and would never have attempted that gully. It looks amazing though, and the views too. Awesome. :thumbup: :thumbup:
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby Guinessman » Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:24 pm

Went by that way today. There would appear to have been a bit of a thaw. The snow level is at 2600/2700 feet and what there is icy above that.
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Re: Great End via Skew Gill

Postby dav2930 » Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:27 pm

dittzzy wrote:I definitely fit into the description of "Wuss" and would never have attempted that gully. It looks amazing though, and the views too. Awesome. :thumbup: :thumbup:

Thanks dittzzy :D Maybe "sensible" is a more fitting description than "wuss"? :lol: In decent winter conditions, when Skew Gill is properly full of snow, it can be a very straightforward plod and a good introduction to winter climbing; so don't be too put off. Just avoid it when it's so lean.

Guinessman wrote:Went by that way today. There would appear to have been a bit of a thaw. The snow level is at 2600/2700 feet and what there is icy above that.

Lakes winters are so fickle! Well done though; I expect the last few hundred feet to the summit will have been interesting?
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