Grand Alliance for Father’s Day

Black Crag in Borrowdale is a great venue with a wide spread of grades – with the unusual distinction of routes that feature in both Classic Rock and Extreme Rock (hrmm – the more I think about it perhaps it’s not so unusual – it’d make a good quiz question – answers in the “comments” box and no cheating!)

Parking is a bit of a pain since one of the pull-offs on the main road has been closed, and we were lucky to find a spot in Grange on a sunny Sunday. This does at least give you an early sight of the crag.

Parking in the village probably adds another 10 minutes so it’s getting on for a half hour approach, but mostly a pleasant flattish path. No surprise that there are a few teams already strung out on Troutdale Pinnacle

… but no one on the North Buttress – home to our target: Grand Alliance E4 6a. This had been on my to-do list ever since I did its sister route, Prana, which made such an impression on me that I included it as one of 3 featured routes in this article:

Both routes have a run out final 10m or so up the obvious compact headwall above good but distant gear, with GA being perhaps half a grade harder.

Gearing up at the bottom it became apparent that Jake had left his small wires safely in the van, meaning we had nothing between a #5 and a an RP3. That settled any questions about who’d be leading the main pitch!

I ran the first couple together, starting up The Shroud and extending gear to link into the 5b P2 which involves a pull around a small roof followed by straightforward but runout climbing on good edges.

… to a comfy stance with great vistas over Derwent Water.

The main pitch starts with a tenuous traverse threading an unlikely way between two bands of overhangs…

… before more or less meeting Prana at a bit of a resting spot where a couple of good wire placements can be found (though the sideways RP that Jake had to use in lieu of a #3 rock would no doubt have focused his attention!)

GA moves up and left from here, (whereas Prana trends right) on tiny underlings and sidepulls, without an awful lot for your feet. Exquisite, techy climbing that you can really savour from the comfort of the blunt end of the rope! A handy 60m rap got us back down to the ground and a conflab as to what to do with the rest of the day. Anything else on Black Crag would have been a bit of an anticlimax so we made the short drive to Reecastle…

… just in time to catch the evening sun for a trip up Thumbscrew, one of three 3* E3s on the crag. Superb, featured rock with excellent gear – just as well as you don’t want to be fiddling around on such steep territory.

A pair of stupendous, contrasting routes, and a great way to celebrate Father’s Day!

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