Dow Crag, Lake District: Giant’s Crawl slants up B Buttress like a silver sash – thrilling for tyros who must tiptoe up the edge and look down the sheer drop of Nimrod
Our raised voices echoed from the crags over Goat’s Water. Such was the inauspicious start I made with the late Harry Griffin, then Lake District Country diary correspondent, climbing together for the first time on Dow Crag.
Harry had berated me for running out the rope on the topmost easy pitch. “You should have belayed lower down,” he said. “Then I would have been able to hear you when you told me to climb up to join you.” Instead of seeing sense I began to argue, and later felt ashamed when another climber said: “We could hear your voices on Central Chimney, three buttresses away.”
“Sorry, Harry” I said in the pub, “I should have realised and stopped on a stance so I could watch your progress from above.” “I know the feeling,” he replied magnanimously. “I once would have done the same.”
Last week it all came back as I walked with my crutches from the Walna Scar track to Goat’s Water, inset like a gem among boulders under the magnificent array of buttresses that constitute Dow Crag. It is signposted from afar by the gangway, speckled with quartz, of Giant’s Crawl, which slants up B Buttress like a silver sash – thrilling for tyros who must tiptoe up the edge and look down the sheer drop of Nimrod, one of Dow’s extreme climbs.
What climbs there are here. Harry climbed on Dow as a boy and knew them all. Murray’s B with its postage-stamp slab inset above the scree, Hopkinson’s Crack shooting up arrow-straight from the bed of the amphitheatre past the Bandstand; and Eliminate A surmounting roof after roof up A Buttress are just three of the absolute classics that make the heart sing. By nightfall we had long forgotten our disagreement. It was Harry who ensured that when he passed away nearly 10 years ago, it was I who continued his column.
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