GetOutside Champion: Mel Nicholls
Paralympian, outdoors lover and life adventurer.
Jessie & Rory escape to the mountains on an exhilarating journey up to Pinnacle Ridge in the Lake District.
The journey to Pinnacle Ridge is a slog. Broken trail, crumbling scree piles, plus the large majority of visitors to the area are often all clamouring to admire the neighbouring Eastern fells.
It might not seem the obvious choice on the first day of Spring, yet climbing up Pinnacle Ridge to reach St Sunday's Crag seemed a rather special place to watch inverted clouds swirl around the mountains, Hellvellyn concealed in the distance by a white, wispy cloak.
Bags packed, gaiters, on, OS maps app switched on, we check our paper map before stowing it away to begin our long walk in.
Our magnificent mountain adventure involved 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 scrambling gear out.
As we trudge up the approach, the steepening trail disappears, hidden under sheep-poo, wet grass and rust-coloured bracken, flattened underfoot. Geezus I think, the mountains do not care for my wobbly steps, or my lack of cardio fitness. 'It get 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 scramble is exciting, bold and brilliant. Involving a sequence of climbing actions, from bridging and placing gear to moving together in an exposed mountain situation, the concentration to identify the right moves is totally absorbing.
Approaching a tricky chimney crux, I wedge my left boot into a damp, shallow wall 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 precarious arranged, Rhyolitic sculptures.
'Are you at The Pinnacle yet?' Rory calls out to me. I spot a prominent spire a few metres in front of me.
Teetering forwards, I lower a sling onto the spike, the gaping blankness of the walls below me either side.
It's the airiness, the exposure, the feeling of vulnerability that comes with the mountain territory. Clipping the rope in, I brush these feelings past and locate an anchor spot to belay and make myself safe, boots dangling off the edges as I bring my partner across the dramatic traverse.
We top out at St Sunday’s Crag and decide against extending our journey over Cofa Pike flank of Fairfield, heading back 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 lake visible in the distance, it’s hard to believe that completing Pinnacle Ridge is a mere hour-and a half adventure away from ordinary city life.
It’s a much-needed mountain escape to fulfil our weekday longing, the perfect place to find a little bit of adventure on a classic mountaineering route, armed with the right equipment and experience.