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Scafell and Wasdale


Scafell & Wasdale (2014)

ISBN: 978 -0-85028-055-5

Written by: Al Phizacklea and Ron Kenyon

Published by: The Fell and Rock Cllimbing Club of the English Lake District

Reviewed by: Steve Crowe  (April 2015)


“There are very few places in Britain that offer the breadth of high calibre climbing that can be enjoyed on the crags of Scafell” says Steve Scott in the introduction to the Central Buttress Centenary Edition of the Scafell and Wasdale guide by the FRCC. The guide has a modern feel and is light enough to take to the top of England’s highest mountains. It has clearly been written by people with a passion for the area.

The History
This is hidden away at the rear of the guide but it is well worth reading and it is illustrated with some timeless photographs too.The first records of activities on these mountains are mere scrambles dated 1837. The popular V Diff Slingsby Chimney was ascended way back in 1888. My old Durham Mountaineering Club climbing partner Bob Bennett and his friends enjoyed a photo opportunity after climbing over 50 new routes on Buckbarrow in 1973 and 1974. On a June day in 1986 Chris Sowden took the lead from Martin Berzins to produce the much respected Borderline creating the first in the area E6 at the time. It now gets E7! Ross and Locky re-enter the history books in 1991 for their superb Swan Song. Rob Matheson is still finding new route opportunities after 36 years of exploration.

The Top Fives
They offer both inspiration and insight, the contributors are a veritable who’s who; Pete Botterill, Martin Berzins, Dave Birkett, Al Phizacklea, Rob Matteson, James McHaffie, Colin Read, Angela Soper, Chris Bonington, Bill Young, Bill Pattison.

Classic Climbs
The whole area is littered with classic routes; Mickledore Grooves, Moss Gill Grooves, Botterill's Slab, Great Eastern, Lord of the Rings, Saxon, Ichabod, The Nazgul, White Wizard, Lost Horizons, Shere Khan, Ringwraith, Borderline, Another Lonely Day, Nowt but a Fleein’ Thing. But one routes stands out above them all and that is Central Buttress, which was first climbed on 20 April 1914. This guidebook certainly honours the achievement of these early pioneers and all those bold and brave ascents that have followed.

Harvey Maps and excellent photo plans coupled with clear photo diagrams will lead you with ease to your chosen route. The descent from many of the crags described can be difficult and dangerous so it is good to see the clear presentation of the best ways back down. Please be sure to take care especially descending off the East Buttress and Scafell Crags as there have been too many fatalities.

I was not impressed by the choice of the cover photo but there are many superb action photos inside. However Joe Holden obviously didn’t read the Notes for Photographers on page 310 about clutter before taking his photo on page 186! The photos that I did like included Andy Mitchell tackling Black Rider E5 on page 29 and Ed Brown gasping on Entonox E7 on page 105 (I was lucky enough to be there the day Nick Wharton made his impressive first ascent of Entonox in 1995. I was pleased as punch to have onsighted Shere Khan then stood back in awe to watch Nick make a brilliant and bold ascent of this superb overhanging arete). So I was surprised to see that the next excellent shot was George Ulrich climbing Shere Khan E5 on page 114. The classic image of Dave Birkett making the pinky mono move on Welcome to the Cruel World E9 on page 127 is nicely balanced by Eric Parker and Michael Kenyon writhing up Central Chimney Severe on page 248. The tightly cropped shot of Iain Small fighting with Borderline E7 on page 133 tells it’s own tale while the excellent picture of The Buckbarrow Needle VS on page 277 would have been superb as a double page spread. What can I say about Dave Birkett pulling on make believe hand holds on Hasty Sin Oot Ert Hoonds? E9 page 307, well I’ve added down that line and I told Dave it was unclimbable! But for me the very best is the final action photo which is a stunning shot of Dave Birkett on Nowt but a Fleein’ Thing up on Cam Crag taken by Alastair Lee (on page 308).

There are useful notes at the back and finally a detailed index of climbs. This excellent updated guide describes all the climbing on Scafell, Scafell Pike, Round How Area, Brad Crag Area, Great End Wasdale, Great End Borrowdale, Mosedale, Overbeck, Buckbarrow and the Wasdale Screes. All that is but a few lines here and there that have returned to the undergrowth and the historical record of these obsolete adventures are recorded on the FRCC website for posterity. I can recommend updating to this excellent guide book before the summer arrives on the mountain crags.



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