Wainwright climbed Skew Gill on Great End "with the help of the publisher's rope". I have always thought of Wainwright as a bit of a wimp so I thought that I might manage it without a rope.
So off I set yesterday from Seathwaite via Taylor Gill Force and its little warm up scramble. Very quiet on that route but I was soon joined by the hordes heading up to Sty Head on the path from Stockley Bridge. Skew Gill is the huge gash on the west face of Great End and is approached via the start of the corridor route.
Skew Gill is very impressive once you are in it and is several hundred yards long steepening as it ascends. Most of it is a bouldery stream bed but there are four waterfall pitches on rock. The first pitch we avoided on grass to the left. On the second (and wettest of them all) I stood in the waterfall and lifted Polly onto a ledge above my head, climbed up and then repeated the manoeuvre one more time. The third pitch was near the top and I climbed the wet rock whilst Polly did a grassy variation on the right. A bit more scrambling over boulders brought us to the final 20 foot pitch - a steep slab with a crack to one side dripping with water. There just weren't enough good ledges to repeat my earlier manoeuvres with Polly and it was too smooth for her to manage on her own. We had to admit defeat, reverse our previous pitch and climb down for 50 yards or so. We then climbed out on steep grass and sheep tracks for about 100 feet on the south rim of the gill. Quite hairy to be honest and I am glad I had taken the precaution of asking Jayne Hill to call the MRT if I had not reported in by tea time!
Once out of the gill we were able to look down on the scene of our failure and head up to the top of the Band which was only a short distance above us. Time to ring Jayne and confirm we were still in the land of the living, then up the side of Branch Gully and onto the summit which was shrouded in mist. Lunch was taken at the summit and the only other people I saw were a young fellrunner and his older companion who looked just like Joss Naylor (right age, right build, right face, bright blue running kit). Does he still run? I thought he had retired by now! If it wasn't him it must have been his double.
Then down to the Col above Calf Cove but instead of descending to Calf cove we descended west into the amphitheatre below Long Pike (Southern Fells Great End 8). In a variation to the Wainwright Route we joined the Corridor Route south of Round How instead of to the north. Lots of path restoration going on here. Chatting to one of the workers I was told that the path had last been restored 19 years ago so it had lasted pretty well considering it is one of the most trodden paths on the high fells.
Polly managed the bad step with no problem and soon we passed the foot of Skew Gill again. On to Sty Head and this time we took the Stockley Bridge path back to Seathwaite.
8.5 miles and 7 hours according to the GPS! But I did spend a long time in the Gill trying various ways of getting Polly up or around that final pitch.
Conclusion: Skew Gill is definitely a scramble not a walk but it would be a very easy scramble if it were not for that last 20 feet. How hard? You need to be able to climb at V Diff standard on wet rock. I could have managed it with little or no trouble without Polly. Best go with a human companion and leave the dogs at home. Do it on a warm day so you dry out quickly once out of the gill! It is very impressive though and I hope the photos do it credit.
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