Chester unbeknown to us had been harbouring a secret desire! For some months he'd wanted to climb Pillar in the Lakes. No problem there you might say, there's a good path all the way up. But his yearning wasn't just to go up Pillar mountain, no, but to climb Pillar Rock!!
I first learnt he intended using my Wasdale meet to attempt this at the summer dinner in Bassenthwaite. He said he'd got it all planed, John Cordingley, the Coventry lads, John Biffin, George Taylor and Steve Crowe were all going to help him.
So five weeks later on Friday night the 7th of July Roy Roebuck, myself, Tracy Needham, Iris and Ken Miles (the last three members of the Doncaster Ramblers Association) found ourselves drinking beer in the Strands Hotel, Nether Wasdale. It was 11:30 with no sign of the above- mentioned people. We'd had a good days walking on the Friday so we weren't too bothered about no one turning up. We were talking what might be done in the morrow when two gnome like faces appeared at the window. Everyone cowered, and then relaxed, it was only Chester and Dave Mitchell!
"We've been in the other pub across the road since half ten" claimed Chester, "they've shut now"
"We were in there `till about then, but they'd run out of beer so we came across here" I replied, "We must've gone out the front door as you walked in the back"
Was this an omen of what was to come?
"Where's the Coventry lads?" Chester asked
"Don't know, what do they look like?" I enquired.
Chester wasn't too perturbed about the absence of his back up team; he'd got two other mugs to fill in for them.
"Well I'm off to bed now. I want to be up at 6:00, have breakfast and be away for half seven, take it steady you know" said Chester
"OK" I said, "they're still serving so I think we'll have another pint."
Chester and Dave skulked off challenging the legitimacy of my birth.
The next morning wasn't too bad, it'd been raining during the night but the clouds were lifting. John Cordingley arrived at eight in his Land Rover whinging about having to get up at half four, but then saying how good it was driving over Hard Knot without the tourist getting in the way.
Chester and Dave wandered over!
"What are you still doing here?" John asked
"I was up at 6, but it was raining so I went back to bed." Chester replied
"But you're supposed to have gone by now!" John said.
"I've had me breakfast, I've just got to go to the shops for some snap" Chester said.
"You don't have time for shopping, here have these Eccles cakes" John held out his offering.
"Lancashire fly cakes, what do you thing Dave" Chester asked.
"Beggars can't be choosers," answered John.
Chester stuffed the Eccles cakes into his rucksack, Dave shoved Twenty Players full strength into his; then they were off.
"We'll give them an hour and catch 'em up" John said, "By the way I'll have to sleep in the land rover tonight, I've left me tent behind the kitchen door!"
Still no sign of the Coventry lads.
Ten o'clock found us at Wasdale Head car park. This was a strange experience for me, I'm not usually active until the crack of noon, but it promised to be a long day so an early start was inevitable. We set off up the Black Sail path Roy in front followed by Iris, Tracy, J.N.C, Ken and myself. It was a fine morning, quite warm in fact and shorts were the order of the day. John stopped to get out some old battered bino's that looked like they'd came from the 2nd world war. He peered though them up the mountain. "I think I can see Chester," he said. At that he turned on the turbo-chargers in his boots and sped off in hot pursuit. We made good steady progress, and eventually caught Chester up on the ridge just below the climber's path to Pillar Rock
"I'm glad I only gave you an hour's start" I puffed.
Chester and Dave by now had been joined Bill Nix who'd camped up at Black Sail Pass (???) and Chester's old walking buddy John "H" who use to look after the bar in the New Inn, he'd been given the task of looking after Skye, Chester's dog. Sandwiches were eaten, oh and an Eccles cake. Ken had had enough a turned back here.
Chester made good progress over the tricky parts of the path, but a different way back would be needed to accommodate Chester's leg. We stopped for lunch proper in sight of Pillar Rock at about half one. Chester and Dave had an Eccles cake each. Whilst John and Roy prepared ropes, belays, slings and other gadgets needed for climbing, Chester changed his boot and then joined John "H" Dave and Bill who had clambered down to the foot of the climb next to J.N.C. and Roy. This was it. Things were getting serious, the wind had changed and the cleg was beginning to come in. J.N.C lead off the first pitch of the "Slab and Notch" route a moderate in the guide book, but a bit more of an undertaking for Chester. Chester came second and Roy third. Suddenly over the brow the Coventry lads appeared. Pleasantries were exchanged as they explained how their tent resembled the black death so they couldn't get Friday night and how they had to stop a couple of bottles of whiskey going bad at Greenclose.
I have to admit the next few minutes were a little vague. We could only hear a few shouts from Chester and Co. as they were behind a gully out of sight of us but Iris and Tracy kept us amused fighting over custody of Skye - whoever had the dog was the warmest!
Then without warning Chester triumphantly appeared on the summit, he'd done it, good on yer Chester! All he had to do now was get down!
J.N.C abseiled off first, no problem. Next was Chester, in his excitement he clipped onto his chest harness instead of his sit harness. He was not a happy badger coming down that abseil, facing out into space and being cut in two by his chest sling I doubt he'll make that mistake again, fortunately John Biffin was able to climb half way up and put him right. By now the cloud had come in and it started raining so unfortunately John "H" and Dave couldn't do the climb. It was decided the easiest way off the mountain would be to go up!!
On the top was horizontal rain, too bad even for an Eccles cake. It was a very wet walk back down to Wasdale Head. The Coventry lads, John "H" and Bill Nix went home. Back to the camp site after a change into dry clothes a bit of a wash we made for the Strands we commandeered a small room and had our evening meal there, growling at any none Pennine thinking of entering. A right good night was had reminiscing, as the Pennine can do so well, and overhearing some teacher panicking (over a pint and a meal) about 9 kids on a D of E scheme who hadn't returned from their walk. The weather was still lousy and I don't think she was relishing the idea of going out to look for them.
Sunday morning wasn't very pleasant either, the kids on the D of E scheme had found their way off, so the teacher hadn't have to go after them, and it was still raining. Despite the weather's attempt though, I think this year's Wasdale meet was great success. Thanks to all those who were there and supported Chester in his quest, that also includes Graham and Silvia who didn't realise Chester was climbing Pillar Rock and marched over Pillar mountain and wondered how they hadn't caught him up. I think everyone who was there had a good time, I'll try and think of some other crazy scheme for next year's meet. Finally the quote of the weekend must go to Roy. He was heard saying in a conversation "I was just getting serious, then I joined the Pennine". Sums it all up dunnit.
K. (Tiger) Langham