Engineer’s Slabs, Gable and a long overdue encounter

I first leafed through Hard Rock almost 40 years ago – a hallowed tome on Pete’s (my father-in-law to be) bookshelf. At that time, and for quite a few years thereafter, the grade range on offer (typically HVS to E2) was well beyond my capabilities, so I was particularly interested by the handful of VSs that make it in to the list. Being an engineer myself, Engineer’s Slabs seemed tailor-made to be my first tick when I eventually graduated to the ranks of the “VS Men” (apologies for the anachronism).

Hard Rock has been a guiding light in my climbing career ever since, so it’s ironic that I’d never actually got around to doing Engineer’s Slabs. A recent flurry of other ticks has brought a renewed focus on the remaining gaps, so I jumped at the opportunity to tag along on a Lakes trip with Jim and team when I heard Gable was on the agenda.

Confirmation that I’d made a good decision for the weekend came when Tony unveiled his pop-up pizza emporium – I could get used to this glamping lifestyle!

Despite it being a bank holiday weekend, BaysBrown Farm Campsite was “Full” but not absolutely rammed,

and you can’t grumble about the view.

Parking at Honister Pass, we took in the summit of Green Gable

… to get a view across to Gable Crag (the cairn more or less points at Engineer’s Slabs)…

… before dropping down Windy Gap to traverse into the foot of the crag. The steep grassy scramble to the start of the routes proper wasn’t too alarming and I was soon heading up the first pitch of the eponymous route. Whilst the original line took the damp groove, it now seems the norm to start up the thin bold wall to its left – this might be harrowing for a typical VS leader!

The rest of the pitch is great fun, with enough sustained climbing and the occasional tricky move to maintain interest.

The half-height belay, where the line takes a rightwards dogleg, is pretty cramped (especially for 3) and if you’ve got 60s and a decent sized rack you’d be far better off doing the whole thing in a oner. Here’s Jim starting pitch 2.

… and belaying Tony at the top.

… and a moody shot of another team (Tom and Alex) at the belay.

There’s a handy rap point that gets you down on 60s,

and also provides a sneak preview of a couple of the E3s on the blank wall to the right. The Tomb looked vaguely tempting, but the lingering dampness and absence of chalk (not to mention the name!) put me off. Instead we did The Angel of Mercy, a great 2-pitch E1. It looks fairly uninviting from below, but climbs really well.

Here’s the view from the belay, with the initial ominous overlap in the foreground and just about to enter the crux wide crack at the top. Recommended!

We celebrated with beers in The Wainwright in Keswick, where the barman talked me into trying “a great 6.3% IPA that drinks like a session ale”. A lethal combination!

Photo Credit – Extra pictures courtesy of Tom & Alex – Thanks guys!

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