The journey to Pinnacle Ridge is a slog. Broken trail, crumbling scree piles, and grand views of the eastern fells to put you off your stride. It might not seem the obvious choice on the first day of spring, but this classic grade 3 scramble, Lakeland's finest ridge, was a rather special place to be as inverted clouds swirled around the fells, Hellvellyn concealed in the distance by a white, wispy cloak.
It's hard to believe that Pinnacle Ridge has been a mere few hours out of our ordinary city life
Pinnacle Ridge, St Sunday Crag
Grade: 3 scramble
Start/finish: pay & display car park opposite Patterdale Hotel (NY396159)
Equipment: Confident climbers may solo, but for most parties a rope and a small climbing rack should be carried - if only for the crux corner and the exposed pinnacles above. Helmet highly recommended
Maps: OS Landranger (1:50,000) 90; OS Explorer (1:25,000) OL5; Harvey British Mountain Map (1:40,000) Lake District
Scrambles in the Lake District North by Brian Evans (Cicerone)
The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland by Dan Bailey (Cicerone)
With the roadworks and city signs of Preston streaming past us, we set off with bleary eyes on an alarmingly early Saturday morning. The fog seems to clear as we arrived at the village of Patterdale, as if the weather is beckoning us on.
Bags packed, gaiters on, we check our map before stowing it away to begin the walk-in. Our mountain adventure involves hiking up through the valley before steeply rising to Blind Cove, contouring round and wiggling up to the scree slope - and that's before we even consider getting the gear out.
As we trudge up the approach our steepening trail disappears, hidden under sheep poo, wet grass and rust-coloured bracken, flattened underfoot. The mountains do not care for my wobbly steps, I think, nor my lack of cardio fitness.
'It gets worse from here, there's scree slopes to come next,' says my climbing partner cheerfully. From afar, a dark line of rock can be seen, jutting across the skyline. We clamber up the shifting scree piles to the base of the scramble, denoted by the flattened ground and huge rocky pillars, finally pausing for breath.
Pinnacle Ridge is exciting, bold and brilliant, requiring the full range of mountain skills and equipment. From placing gear and moving roped together in an exposed mountain situation, to the concentration required to identify the right sequences of moves, the mental immersion is totally absorbing. Approaching the tricky chimney that constitutes the crux of the route, I wedge my left boot into a damp, shallow crack and balance my right foot on a nubbin of rock. Silently thanking the foresight of bringing a scrambling rack, I place a nut and thread a sling in the chimney before reaching up to drier holds above. Tricky moves complete, we continue on the crest of the scramble, clambering over the precariously tumbled rhyolitic sculptures.
It's the airiness, the exposure, the feeling of vulnerability that comes with this mountain territory
'Are you at The Pinnacle yet?' Rory calls out to me. I spot a prominent spire a few metres in front. Teetering forwards, I lower a sling onto the spike, conscious of the gaping blankness of the walls below me on either side. It's the airiness, the exposure, the feeling of vulnerability that comes with this mountain territory. Clipping the rope in, I brush these feelings aside and locate a good spot to belay and make myself safe, boots dangling off the edge as I bring my partner across the dramatic traverse.
We top out on the summit of St Sunday Crag and decide against extending our journey over Cofa Pike to Fairfield, heading back instead along the spine of the mountain directly into Patterdale with the afternoon light setting the iconic Lakeland valley aglow.
With the toothy fangs of rock behind us and Ullswater visible in the distance, it's hard to believe that completing Pinnacle Ridge has been a mere few hours out of our ordinary city life. It's been a much-needed mountain escape to satisfy our weekday longing, the perfect little adventure.
Looking for more top days out on the rock...?
- Classic Scramble - Cam Crag Ridge 30 Jul, 2018