Pen by Thor's Buttress

To the right of the steep grey wall of Esk Buttress, one of the finest and most dramatically situated of Lakeland crags, lies the easier angled Thor's Buttress. The rock is of same quality, offering open scrambling requiring at least a small degree of competence and provides a fine route to the summit of Pen.
Heading up into Mosedale, the path which leaves the bottom of Hardknott Pass is almost immediately boggy, but it offers a quiet route into the heart of the fells...
...and provides a grandstand view of the Scafell range from the crest of the ridge at its head. From here the track drops to Lingcove beck, which - swollen by recent rains -  required a cold wade, and then traverses beneath the appropriately named Long Crag (middle centre above). It is an interesting route which requires a little route finding ability in the dark. Having forgotten my compass and knowing it would be dark long before I was down I was distracted from these thoughts by a shaft of sunlight which broke through the thinning clouds. I stepped left to get a better angle for a photo, dropping my pack on a convenient rock. Beside it, as if left deliberately, was a compass. Problem solved.
The sun's appearance was all too brief, but soon the cloud was lifting from the ridge above Pen, leading to the summit of Scafell Pike; it is by far the most rugged and arguably unspoiled corner of the Lakes, remaining remarkably untouched by the hordes that gather on England's highest summit above.
Once across Great Moss, one must cross the infant Esk. There was little point trying to keep boots dry now, although hopping across proved surprisingly easy, the river lower than expected. From there I followed the moraines steeply towards the toe of Thor's Buttress (centre right above), taking a short detour... enter Thor's Cave. The wind screamed through the cleft, whistling past two chockstones above and it was an uncomfortable spot to linger. I headed out and down quickly enough, back to the start of the scramble, making quick progress up the rough slabs.
Pausing on a ledge, I sensed the sun behind and looked back as a shaft of light caught the flank of the curiously named Pike de Bield Moss...
Steep scrambling continued, though the route now was open to interpretation depending on one's preference, which lead finally to the summit blocks of Pen. There are various routes up this last step and an easy gully which leads around the back, but the rock is rough and sound and the scrambling a delight, despite the wind which by now was threatening to tear me off and hurl me back into Little Narrowcove.
Breathless, I reached the small conical summit. Above is the long rugged ridge to the summit of Scafell Pike...
...while off to the left are the austere cliffs of the East Buttress, the rising traverse of Great Eastern Route just visible in this image. It is one of those routes which takes an improbable line for its grade, the leader winding through overhanging corners as the belayer watches the drips that fall, never touching the face, to land meters away from the cliff's bottom. Rather gripped while setting a belay on a much harder route on the East Buttress, I fumbled the ropes and watched my belay plate follow the dripping water, noting the exact spot where it struck the scree some 50m below. Belaying with an Italian hitch, on steep technical ground for the next two pitches, I learnt my lesson.
Heading down into the gathering gloom I felt for the compass in my pocket: another lesson learned.


Dr Blug said…
Best part of the Lakes by far. I spent 2 nights on Great Moss a couple of years ago, great place for star watching and just being alone.