Sunday, 5 February 2012

Balancing on a Pinhead

Scafell and Eskdale from lower slopes of Harter Fell
On two occasions recently, once on Twitter and once on an outdoor blog, fellow walkers have praised the merits of Helm Crag in Cumbria, suggesting, in one case, that it is the only Wainwright that involves a climb to get to the top; and in the other that it is the only one that AW himself could not actually stand on the summit.

The Summit Rocks of Helm Crag

Now Helm Crag is a superb hill and I always really enjoy it, usually as part of a longer walk on towards Gibson Knott and beyond.  But I think these claims are inaccurate.

Setting aside the impossible to answer question about the boundary between a climb and a scramble, I think there are other fells that could potentially make these claims.  Well, they could if they could talk and they wanted to boast about their attributes.  Personally, I am absolutely sure that I could not get on to the tops of many of the Wainwrights without the aid of my hands at some point on the way up.  The last few feet of Pike O’Stickle spring to mind, as do half a dozen others involving at least a few handholds.

However, in terms of being able actually to stand on the top I would challenge any mere mortal to stand on the summit of Harter Fell, Eskdale, or to achieve the top without the use of the hands on what involves, I would suggest, at its easiest, an awkward little scramble.  The trig point is easily attainable, but this is a little way from what is clearly the highest point, a small rocky outcrop.  AW himself wrote that “The middle one of these three rocky tors is....the true summit, although it carries no decorations; at first glance it looks unassailable but an investigation of its east side discloses there a breach: the crest may then be reached by simple climbing”.

The Summit Rocks of Harter Fell

The photo below is of my hand holding the highest point!  I was actually gripping tightly as I balanced to take the photograph. I think it demonstrates the point about the near impossibility of standing on the summit.

A Long Reach to the Summit of Harter Fell, Eskdale!

1 comment:

  1. Given that the point about not having surmounted the top of Helm Crag comes from AW himself, it is by definition accurate. I completely agree that there are several fells where you couldn't get to the very top without using hands (good examples above)and whilst you can certainly touch the top of them all, you wouldn't necessarily want to try to stand on the very top of every one. But the point wasn't about being able to do it with your hands in your pockets. A detailed read of AW brings up many examples of hands being needed for the final summit.