Kern Knotts - Background Information

Who better to describe Kern Knotts Crack than O g Jones himself who first climbed it? Extract is from his book Rock-Climbing in the English Lake District.


One fine morning in April I started off for Keswick aggrieved to leave Wastdale and feeling strong after a fortnight’s scrambling. Surely if the Crack could be done at all now would be the time, with weather and fitness corresponding. Our party was small; two men where coming with me to look at Kern Knotts…It was in the preceding winter that Hill had let me down from the top of the Crack for a distance of fifty feet to a small loose platform of rock, and I had with some extreme effort managed to return without tugging the rope. Since that time there had been opportunity to reflect and decide that if I could get up to the platform from below and then help another to the same level, we could jointly manage to ascend the Crack without further aid. If the platform could not hold two, it would be a case of ascending the worst part of the Crack, the splayed out portion some twelve feet high without further assistance.

On reaching the spot things looked cheerful enough. The wall is one side of a buttress about one hundred feet in height, and marvellously smooth to look at. It is cut down from top to bottom by a clean edged slit passing right through the buttress and forming on the other side Kern Knotts Chimney. At a height of thirty feet or so is the little platform, the niche at the back of which looks as though carved out for the reception of a piece of stationary. The portion of the crack that leads up to this first part has a slightly different outlook; it is more open, and is provided with holds of a shaky description. Getting a companion to hold himself in this I mounted his shoulders and felt about with the hands. There was nothing at all which seemed firm. So I called for an axe, and, remembering certain tactics in an awful rock climb in Northern Italy some years before, I rammed the axe longitudinally into the crack and endeavoured to use it ass a hold. On this occasion it would not act; the loose stones in the cleft were simply levered out of place, and I had to pass the axe down again. Then ensued a few moments fatiguing suspension from one arm with but poor foothold to ease the strain. It was no go this time, I had to let myself down to rest awhile. Next attempt with a little delicate balancing I reached the top hold with both hands and dragged up to the lower step in the ledge. Thence to the platform was an easy mater and we all began to breathe freely.


It never occurred to me that I had made no mental note, in my previous ascent of the crack, of the method of getting up the next part and when it came to the test I found it impossible, three times in succession, to get my head above a certain projecting block at the top of the niche. Each time it caught me by the back of the neck and would not release me till in desperate extremity I let myself down again with exhausted arms. After these failures I flung away my coat and tied on to a rope that had been let down from above. With renewed confidence the fourth attempt was successful. When the first twelve feet were passed I found two wedged stones a short distance above my head. These forced my body out of the crack altogether, but they offered respectable holds during the process. Above these the next pitch involved a process of backing up, though the chimney was much too narrow to brace firmly across from side to side. I joined the men at the top after a few more struggles, breathless and exhausted.`

After a rest, we effected an ascent without a rope; a rapid passage of a worst bit left me with reserve strength to climb the rest of the way comfortably. Eighty feet and the descent by the chimney on the other side were then disposed in seven minutes.


The first account of a route being inspected by top rope before being climbed?

Picture of Guy Newbold doing the ascent of Kern Knotts Crack in tweeds, cloth cap and hobnailed boots on the 100th aniversary of the first ascent 1897? and the morning of the Team's first Kern Knotts Auction.

(please let me know the exact date Guy) 



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