walkhighlands

This board helps you to share your walking route experiences in England and Wales... or overseas.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale


Postby dav2930 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 10:53 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Scafell Pike

Hewitts included on this walk: Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Scafell Pike

Date walked: 14/06/2017

Time taken: 7.5

Distance: 17.3 km

Ascent: 1208m

5 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

The initial plan was for a week on Skye, but as the appointed date of departure neared it was becoming increasingly apparent from the BBC and MWIS forecasts that we'd picked the wrong week :( . Of course forecasts can be wrong; but that rather abstract thought, true as it undeniably is, hardly justifies a journey of more than 300 miles :think: . So we (Karl and myself) decided to stay local, where the outlook was better.

Even so the weekend was a write-off and it wasn't until the Wednesday that the weather improved sufficiently to consider the route we'd set our sights on. We had in mind to try the grade 3 scramble up the south-east face of Ill Crag (as described in Scrambles in the Lake District by R. B. Evans), which we would approach from Brotherilkeld in Eskdale. The fact that this scramble leads directly to the summit of Ill Crag fitted in nicely with my desire to complete the Lakeland Hewitts - Ill Crag and nearby Broad Crag being the only two whose actual summits I couldn't be sure I'd ever visited. From Broad Crag we'd continue over the Pike to Mickledore then, if there wasn't too much seepage coming down it, up Broad Stand for Scafell and the return to Brotherilkeld over Slight Side. Whether or not conditions would allow us to execute this plan in full we would find out in due course.

As we walked up Eskdale on the Wednesday morning we were pleased to see the clouds dispersing to reveal Slight Side and Bowfell. But the ground was quite wet from the previous day's rain and persistent clag. This was slightly worrying as we didn't relish the thought of slithering about on wet and greasy rock up one of the longest grade 3 scrambles in the lakes, especially without a rope :problem: . But we marched on in the naïve hope that the rock would dry quickly as the sun warmed it.

P1020704.JPG
Looking up Eskdale to Bowfell


We reached the picturesque Lingcove Bridge with its nearby sheepfold of close-cropped grass, stopping to take in the magnificent beauty of the surroundings and the roar of the two meeting becks. By now the heat from the Sun was building up as it reflected off the drying ground. We were getting quite optimistic :) :?: .

P1020706.JPG
Waterfall in the Eskdale gorge just below Lingcove Bridge


As we plodded up the rise towards the uppermost part of the valley we got our first clear view of Ill Crag. Its huge south-east face looked an irresistible challenge.

P1020707.JPG
Scafell Pike and Ill Crag emerging above the gorge


Approaching and crossing Great Moss gave increasingly intimate views of the East Buttress of Scafell, Esk Buttress (named on OS maps as Dow Crag) and the more broken face of Ill Crag.

P1020708.JPG
Scafell and the East Buttress above Cam Spout


P1020709.JPG
Esk Buttress topped by Pen


The sketch of the route in R.B. Evans's guide is a bit, well, sketchy. But fortunately we were armed with a photographic topo printed from t' internet, which made identification of the start and the route above very definite.

P1020710.JPG
SW face of Ill Crag


Ill Crag SW face with text.jpg
Line of the scramble


P1020711.JPG
The profile of Esk Buttress from the foot of Little Narrowcove


P1020712.JPG
Looking up the broken face of Ill Crag from the foot of Little Narrowcove


A short plod up the north bank of Little Narrowcove soon led to the start of the scramble. The bottom of the slab and the mossy corner were soaking wet. But at least most of the slab looked reasonably dry. It was clear, though, that we were likely to encounter some problematic wet or greasy sections higher up. As we had no rope we would need to be very careful.

Before setting off we sat down for a bite and a drink. Thus fortified we took our first steps up the scramble. The slab was pleasant and easy enough and led up to the grassy slope above, which we followed rightwards to the next section.

P1020713.JPG
Karl at top of lower slabs


An easy rib led to a vertical crack with an easy-angled but exposed slab on its left. The route takes the slab. The problem was that this slab was soaking wet. If dry it would be no problem at all, but as it was it offered as much friction as an oily girder covered in soap and was potentially lethal :problem: . The vertical crack to its right was equally exposed and was damp at the bottom, but at least had some big, positive holds to pull up on without relying purely on friction. So although harder it was the safer option under the circumstances and led us to the easier ground above the slab.

From there it was a short walk leftwards to the foot of the central slabs. R.B. Evans writes 'If these slabs were more easily accessible they would certainly sport some pleasant rock climbs in their own right...' He goes on to say that they are about 160 feet high and look far too difficult for a scrambling route, but are easier than they look at least by the route described. Mercifully they weren't soaking wet. They looked wonderful. We set off up the middle of them using nice positive holds and at about 20 feet traversed left along a ledge to the crest of a rib. The groove on the right was damp but fortunately supplied with good holds and led without difficulty to a higher point on the crest of the rib. This was very exposed but led delightfully to the top of the slabs. Superb! :D

P1020714.JPG
At top of the central slabs


An easier section on grass and boulders now led up then leftwards to a deep, mossy,cave-like groove, to the right of which stands a pedestal. This is the start of the upper tower. Easily up onto the pedestal then an exposed traverse right using good holds onto the nose. A very exposed step up this leads to easier ground.

P1020715.JPG
Looking down the first section of the upper tower


Up to the left, across a grassy trench, a nice looking buttress of rough rock rises to a steepening at its top. We weren't sure exactly where the right line was but just followed the cleanest looking sweep of rock, which was on the right edge. I suspect that we should have been further left, for although the going was easy enough for the most part, where the tower steepened near the top there were some pretty technical moves which seemed much harder than anything below. The rock was damp and greasy at this point too. There was a lot of soaking moss just to the left but fortunately the crest above looked clean and a couple of committing moves led to dryer rock with small but positive holds. A few easier moves in a very exposed position led to the top. Maybe it was just the dampness that made this bit feel difficult, or maybe we'd taken the wrong line. Not sure, but a rope is definitely to be recommended.

P1020716.JPG
Looking down the top buttress of the upper tower


All that remained now was the final rib. This was less steep and looked a lot easier.

P1020717.JPG
Looking up the final rib


The scrambling on the final rib was indeed easy but seemed to go on forever as it merged into a massive, sloping field of boulders. But we did eventually, and quite suddenly, reach the summit of Ill Crag. The scramble had taken us about an hour and a half. It's certainly an interesting and challenging way up Ill Crag, with some fine sections of clean and sound rock; but it's more a case of stringing together these craggy bits than of following a natural line. In this respect Pinnacle Ridge on St Sunday Crag is a superior scramble.

P1020719.JPG
Summit of Ill Crag looking to a misty Scafell Pike


P1020722.JPG
Bowfell from Ill Crag


From Ill crag it was a short walk across the boulder-strewn plateau to Broad Crag, my final Lakeland Hewitt. A tiny cairn balanced on a big boulder marks the summit.

P1020725.JPG
Summit of Broad Crag


P1020724.JPG
Scafell Pike from Broad Crag


So then down to the Broad Crag col and the final grind to the summit of the Pike. Needless to say there were lots of folk about; quite a contrast from the scramble on which we saw no one.

P1020728.JPG
On Scafell Pike summit


We joined the crowds around the big, round structure that passes for the summit cairn and had some more food and drink. Then we made our way down to Mickledore.

P1020731.JPG
Mickledore and Scafell Crag


The narrow chimney at the bottom of Broad Stand was clearly visible as we approached the col. It looked wet, as did much of the East Buttress and Central Buttress. This enormous crag faces north so it doesn't see much sun. That means it's slow to dry. And Broad Stand, being at the bottom of a slabby depression, takes a lot of drainage. We squeezed into its little chimney - known as the 'fat man's agony' - and found its walls were streaming with cold water. Everywhere oozed with slime and drops fell from above. The ledge beyond was soaking and sloped out to a 40 ft. drop. We'd both been down here before, using it as a descent after doing one of the climbs on the face. But then it had been dry. Now it was sopping wet, slimy and treacherous. We decided that without a rope in these conditions it was too risky, so we squeezed back through the chimney onto safer ground. Sometimes you just have to accept defeat. We couldn't be bothered with Lord's Rake or Foxes Tarn so just went straight down the Cam Spout path into Upper Eskdale.

On the floor of the valley there were boulderers with their crash-mats playing on Samson's Stones. We watched them for a while then cut across the moss to a point in the beck that was crossable with our boots on. The long walk down Lakeland's wildest valley, full of beauty and interest, with more crags, waterfalls and rock-pools than you could shake a stick at, made a magical end to a fulfilling day. We may have been thwarted by a wet Broad Stand, but at least we were alive to remember what we had done and to look forward to the pub meal we'd promised ourselves. :)

P1020733.JPG
The sheepfold at Lingcove Bridge



our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1271
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:34 pm

Great stuff - though the descriptions of scrambling in the wet fair made me shiver! I've pulled out of scrambles multiple times because of wet! I was on Grib Goch on Sunday with Dr Frank in the wet, and that was bad enough (descending mainly) - what was slippery and what wasn't was just impossible to tell.

I wonder if the chimney you pulled out of is the same one I pulled out of when doing the Wasdale Horseshoe? This is a pic of it. It was horribly horribly greasy then!
20150501_144833 red.jpg


There are obviously some good scrambles in the LD, and I plan to get started again towards the back end of the year when my shoulder should be fully recovered, so it's good to have some choice routes highlighted. Thanks for posting :thumbup:
User avatar
Alteknacker
Scrambler
 
Posts: 2649
Munros:167   Corbetts:29
Hewitts:195
Wainwrights:71   
Joined: May 25, 2013
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Jun 27, 2017 12:22 pm

Good stuff, though the very thought of "greasy scramble" brings horror these days! I do remember a few "moments" early in my career when Lake District scrambling was top of our list of things to do on the way to becoming proper climbers. Which was far dodgier than the proper climbing when we started doing it! Never did Ill Crag though. Broad Stand I do remember...after a superb day on the Gable Traverse then the Corridor Route/some scrambles. Descended Lord's Rake down a snow patch if I remember correctly.

The Lake District is excellent for scrambling. Its particular speciality seemed to be Ghyll scrambles, taking you places nobody else is daft enough to go near.
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
Munros:110   Corbetts:20
Grahams:8   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:113
Wainwrights:71   Islands:5
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby gaffr » Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:31 pm

Good to see one of the out of the way sides of Lakeland although not that far from the very popular Langdale. Not been there since the early seventies.
Nice to see a couple of images of Esk Buttress. :) Some classic climbs on there.
User avatar
gaffr
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1652
Munros:281   Corbetts:203
Grahams:33   Donalds:14
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:25
Wainwrights:11   
Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Location: Highland.

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby Guinessman » Tue Jun 27, 2017 9:33 pm

Interesting TR Dav. Never been that side other than walking through.

Only been to Broad stand once and it was horribly greasy and never been back. I was on Mickledore a few years back when I unfortunately heard a walker/climber falling off the rocks above Broad Stand. He was trying to come down a gully to the south of Broad stand and fell cracking one of his arms. Luckily for him two RAF mountain rescue teams were on an exercise on Scafell Pike at the time.

Don't think I will ever do it.
User avatar
Guinessman
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 1061
Munros:282   Corbetts:41
Grahams:26   Donalds:89
Hewitts:143
Wainwrights:214   Islands:13
Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Location: NW Durham

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:55 am

Looks like a good way to get up Ill Crag by way of a great scramble :clap: I've been up Little Narrowcove a couple of times but never thought to give Ill Crag a go from there :? Also some decent shots of the route that you took :clap:
User avatar
trailmasher
Walker
 
Posts: 1109
Munros:11   
Hewitts:180
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Nov 26, 2014
Location: Near Appleby - Cumbria

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby dav2930 » Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:02 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Great stuff - though the descriptions of scrambling in the wet fair made me shiver! I've pulled out of scrambles multiple times because of wet! I was on Grib Goch on Sunday with Dr Frank in the wet, and that was bad enough (descending mainly) - what was slippery and what wasn't was just impossible to tell.

I wonder if the chimney you pulled out of is the same one I pulled out of when doing the Wasdale Horseshoe? This is a pic of it. It was horribly horribly greasy then!

There are obviously some good scrambles in the LD, and I plan to get started again towards the back end of the year when my shoulder should be fully recovered, so it's good to have some choice routes highlighted. Thanks for posting :thumbup:

Thanks AK. I do agree that scrambling in wet and greasy conditions is pretty unpleasant and sometimes downright dangerous! I think the only reason we went ahead with this one was that we were getting a bit frustrated with the weather on a week off and that day was the best chance we were going to get. But Broad Stand was beyond the pale :roll: !

I'm pretty sure your photo is of Mickledore Chimney - see the pic below:
Broad Stand crop with lines and text.jpg


Good luck with the shoulder mate, hope you can get back into scrambling this year! :D

Mal Grey wrote:Good stuff, though the very thought of "greasy scramble" brings horror these days! I do remember a few "moments" early in my career when Lake District scrambling was top of our list of things to do on the way to becoming proper climbers. Which was far dodgier than the proper climbing when we started doing it! Never did Ill Crag though. Broad Stand I do remember...after a superb day on the Gable Traverse then the Corridor Route/some scrambles. Descended Lord's Rake down a snow patch if I remember correctly.

The Lake District is excellent for scrambling. Its particular speciality seemed to be Ghyll scrambles, taking you places nobody else is daft enough to go near.

Thanks Mal. Totally agree with you that scrambling, especially in damp conditions, is potentially a lot more dangerous than climbing proper. These days, though, I'm more aware of the riskiness of poorly protected sections on climbs than I used to be! Sounds a great day you had on Gable/Scafell. :D

gaffr wrote:Good to see one of the out of the way sides of Lakeland although not that far from the very popular Langdale. Not been there since the early seventies.
Nice to see a couple of images of Esk Buttress. :) Some classic climbs on there.

Thanks gaffr. There are indeed some classic climbs on Esk Buttress. Looking at it at the time I was beginning to wish we'd opted for a climbing day and done Bridge's Route or Medusa Wall (Central Pillar a bit out of my league these days) - might have been drier than the scramble we did (or maybe not!) :D

Guinessman wrote:Interesting TR Dav. Never been that side other than walking through.

Only been to Broad stand once and it was horribly greasy and never been back. I was on Mickledore a few years back when I unfortunately heard a walker/climber falling off the rocks above Broad Stand. He was trying to come down a gully to the south of Broad stand and fell cracking one of his arms. Luckily for him two RAF mountain rescue teams were on an exercise on Scafell Pike at the time.

Don't think I will ever do it.


Thanks GM. There are quite a few interesting routes up the Eskdale side of the Scafells, well worth exploring. :D

Broad Stand is definitely best avoided when damp, especially without a rope! Witnessing that accident must have been very off-putting - and there have been a lot of serious accidents around there. :shock:

trailmasher wrote:Looks like a good way to get up Ill Crag by way of a great scramble :clap: I've been up Little Narrowcove a couple of times but never thought to give Ill Crag a go from there :? Also some decent shots of the route that you took :clap:

Thanks TM. Little Narrowcove makes a great way up. The scramble we did is excellent in parts - especially the central slabs - but as a whole is a bit disjointed. The good bits are rather serious once committed to them. Rope advised! :D
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1271
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby simon-b » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:08 pm

Definitely brave taking on a grade 3 in those conditions, dav. Upper Eskdale does make a great approach to the Scafell range, with a variety of different ways up. I might try the Cockly Pike scramble up Ill Crag someday, although your route will have been more challenging.
User avatar
simon-b
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1904
Munros:282   Corbetts:30
Grahams:7   Donalds:12
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:156
Wainwrights:214   Islands:4
Joined: Jan 2, 2012
Location: Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby dav2930 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:57 pm

simon-b wrote:Definitely brave taking on a grade 3 in those conditions, dav. Upper Eskdale does make a great approach to the Scafell range, with a variety of different ways up. I might try the Cockly Pike scramble up Ill Crag someday, although your route will have been more challenging.

Thanks Simon. More daft than brave I think :lol: ! Yes the Scafells show their grandest aspect to Upper Eskdale IMHO. Haven't done the Cockly Pike scramble but it certainly looks interesting. :D
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1271
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:01 pm

For me Ill Crag is one of the finest tops in the Lakes and fully deserves such an ascent. Looked an excellent day. :clap:
User avatar
johnkaysleftleg
Walker
 
Posts: 3009
Munros:25   Corbetts:10
Grahams:10   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:166
Wainwrights:214   Islands:8
Joined: Jan 28, 2009
Location: County Durham

Re: A greasy scramble up Ill Crag from Eskdale

Postby dav2930 » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:45 pm

johnkaysleftleg wrote:For me Ill Crag is one of the finest tops in the Lakes and fully deserves such an ascent. Looked an excellent day. :clap:

I agree JK. Makes me quite ashamed to think I'd never been to summit of Ill Crag before (at least not that I can remember). Certainly made for a great day (apart from the water everywhere). :D
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1271
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

5 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Outside Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests