Day 2 of the Dad and Jake Lakes Adventure required a suitable objective to avoid being a damp squib after our Langdale ticking session. The weather warranted a mountain crag (too warm and dry to be skulking in the valley) but with a short enough drive (from Langdale) and approach walk to fit in a big day and still make it home that evening. Bucket City on Dove Crag had apparently been on Jake’s To Do list (Bucket List?) for years, and he was happy to sign up for Extol as his warm-up (which was very much on mine). Result!
I’d visited Dove once before, almost exactly a year ago, when Robb and I did Dovedale Groove.
We’d half a mind to do Extol then, but the extreme gardening and prevailing wetness on Dovedale Groove had us exercising sound mountain judgement to save it for another day. This was the day!
It’s a crag of two halves – unfashionable mid-extremes from the 60s on the Main Crag / left (relics from a bygone era) and big-boy routes from the 80s, E5 and up, on the impressive leaning North Buttress on the right (catching the sun in the shot below).
Pausing briefly to scope out the lines on the latter…
… we headed over to the start of Extol (actually the now-favoured alternative which is the start of Hangover – bearing slightly less resemblance to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon!) I ran the first couple of pitches together, feeling like an explorer (in the Dr Livingston vein) but pleasantly surprised at the dryness and encouraged that there was even the occasional trace of chalk! I even found myself quite enjoying the quest.
Having lashed myself to blocks in the alcove, I brought Jake up…
… and despatched him to venture into the meat of the route. This starts with a committing but straightforward traverse around left into the main groove system, with steady climbing up towards a series of stepped roofs.
The climbing through these is really interesting and 3D, drawing on a full repertoire from the climbers play book – side-pulls, underclings and the occasional Damoclese-like spike lead to a semi-rest under the main roof. The peg has long gone, but a good wire protects a pull out rightwards on juggy holds, and the teeter back into the continuation groove, which leads to the top. Here’s Jake just after the main roof.
What a stupendous route! Probably worth E3, but with decent protection and excellent moves – roll in the history and the Hard Rock tick, and it’s definitely a 3* trip. Get on it whilst it’s in good nick!
A bit of careful studying of the topo enabled us to find the rap point for the hard routes – probably not worth the hassle if you are just trying to get down, but Jake was keen to scope out which of the North Buttress routes he was going to tackle.
Here’s the view down Bucket City, E6 6b (look away now if you don’t want to spoil your onsight!) A few things to note: There are some big holds, but they’re by no means all “buckets”; a number of these are covered in impressively large owl pellets; it’s REALLY STEEP (you can make out the rope touching down 45m below and about 10m out from the base of the crag!)
Jake sensibly decided to do a bit of inspection and cleaning on the way down, and check out the gear placements, while I lazed in the sun, congratulating myself on packing belay glasses!
Here’s Jake’s entry from his logbook: Outrageous route, covers some amazing territory! Abbed to clean, check out the moves, and pre-place most of the kit from the top down until the diagonal crack, where abbing became too faffy/sideways – glad I did as there was a lot of owl shit and dust on those top flatties. Pressure was on as I didn’t have enough beans or daylight for a second go, but just about made it up after a fairly epic slog with lots of uncertain moments and some awful rope drag. Found the section up to and through the diagonal crack desperate, struggled a bit with route finding as well despite having looked on ab. So pleased with this though, definitely one of my best efforts despite the sub-optimal style – wouldn’t have had a chance on a proper onsight!
… and the write up from the guidebook: One of the finest and steepest pitches of its grade in the country.
… and a few pics