Broad Stand, whilst being relatively easy in rock climbing terms, is never to be taken lightly, in anything less than perfect conditions it demands total respect.
Being situated next to the Mickledore col, it's reasonable to say that conditions are rarely perfect. Today being no exception, I may go as far as saying conditions were appalling! Although some may say 'character building'!
We set off from Wasdale Head, chatting about previous days spent in the mountains and generally getting to know each other. For me this is important as it's necessary to gain knowledge of any previous experience our clients have, in order that we provide the best day possible.
Both had previous experience of Broad Stand, having visited 10 years ago and making it as far as the crux before backing off. This was all done solo and in good conditions.
Today things were very different. By the time we reached Mickledore the wind was close to 'blow you over' speed, it was raining heavily, mostly showers though, and low cloud brought poor visibility. This was certainly going to be character building!
At the entrance to 'Fat Mans Agony' we donned harnesses and helmets and sorted rope and gear. I explained how we were to proceed from here and set off. The initial squeeze is good fun with a backpack on, then it's up onto open slabs, turning a corner onto the upper slab to a belay stance in the corner, and on this occasion below a waterfall!!! The rock was super slippery so every step was taken with the utmost of care. Belaying under a waterfall soon became very cold, but thankfully the guys didn't take too long. The spacious belay stance providing plenty room for us all.
I then tackled the crux moves onto the upper ledge system. There was a small waterfall pouring over the top of this making the moves feel incredibly insecure, but fun in a strange sort of way. I placed a single piece of protection (that's all there is) which consisted of a number 8 Walnut in a very watery crack and continued on to easy ground above. An excellent chockstone belay awaited :-)
Both the guys found the climbing very challenging on the upper section and required assistance in the form of an un-assisted hoist, which I was able to set up and deploy quickly. Although with 2 people on the single rope this also brought a few extra challenges, see below.
After a breather on the easy ground above, we continued to the summit of Scafell, staying roped up and using 'short-roping' techniques to increase safety levels. On a dry day this would seem crazy, but due to the slippery rock and big drops below us, made total sense today.
A pleasant and increasingly dry walk back to Wasdale with amazing views over the lake helped wash away thoughts of our difficult times on Broad Stand.
Never a mere scramble, always a rock climb. And always a route to treat with the utmost of respect. Thought provoking, challenging, rewarding, and most definitely proper mountaineering.
A grand day out.
Thanks to Joe at Highpoint Mountain Guides for the work, much appreciated.
What to do when hoist assistance is called for on scrambling terrain with 2 people on the end of the rope (3 people in total):
Today our rope was set up for scrambling in a team of 3. I was leading and 2 clients were tied at the other end of the rope and approximately 2.5m apart.
After a struggle on the first section (slippery rock) I expected a hoist may be required for the crux moves on the upper section. I was able to find an excellent anchor in the form of a large chockstone.
When the 1st client slipped off and struggled to make progress up the crux, I offered assistance which was initially declined but later accepted. The belay was set up in 'guide mode' making it very rapid to set up an un-assisted hoist using a prussic and revolver carabiner on the live rope and clipping the dead rope through the revolver. Pulling on the dead rope now allowed me to give rapid assistance and the climber was soon on the large ledge above the crux. With a tight rope the 2nd client was also unable to make the moves through the crux. This brought the additional problem of trying to assist the 2nd client who is the 3rd person on the rope.Hauling 1 person in these conditions is difficult enough, hauling 2 may be a step too far. So what to do?
Being on a huge ledge I was able to untie from the rope and throw my end of rope to Richard (client 2) who then clipped into this with a screwgate carabiner. I attached this rope back to the belay with a tied off Italian hitch, Richard was then able to untie from the original end of rope, thus allowing his dad to continue up to the belay ledge. Once up at the ledge and safe, I fed the dead rope that went down to Richard into the guide plate and released the Italian hitch, fixed the prussic back onto the live rope and started to haul as previously. This gave enough assistance for both guys to reach the safety of the ledge and for us all to enjoy a very well earned rest.
Total timescale for this was circa 20 minutes from first being asked for assistance to both climbers reaching the safety of the ledge. Given the very poor weather, and noisy wind making for difficult communication, this seemed like a reasonably quick solution. Although I'm open to ideas to improve the system, so feel free to get in touch if you know how to.