Words by NeedleSports
Needle Sports is named after Napes Needle , a prominent rock pinnacle, some 20 metres high, situated amongst the Napes Crags on the southern flank of Great Gable, a mountain in the heart of the English Lake District.
Napes Needle was first climbed (solo) by Walter Parry Haskett Smith in June 1886, an ascent considered by many authorities to mark the birth of rock climbing as a sport in its own right.
Today the original route of ascent via the Wasdale Crack (as seen in the photo above) is graded Hard Severe. The Arête follows the right-hand edge and is the least sustained route of ascent, though it too ends up with some hard moves at the top (above the Shoulder) where it joins the Wasdale Crack route and is also graded Hard Severe.
The final moves onto the summit block are the most trying, although manufacturing an adequate belay and descending in safety requires considerably more mountaineering acumen than the ascent (see below)!
Although easy by the standard of modern test pieces, an ascent of Napes Needle will always remain a memorable day in any climber's career.
Climb to the summit and belay by draping a large loop of rope around the overhang of the summit block on the west side (this is the ovehang seen in the photo above). Drop a second loop down to the south side and get your second to attach it to your belay on the Shoulder. Finally drop a third loop down the Gap side and get your second to lean round the "back" of the summit block and clip it into the cam that you placed there previously. Sit down firmly and tighten up these various loops using clove hitches.
Photo top right: The classic view of Napes Needle as seen from the Dress Circle. The climber has just climbed the Wasdale Crack (the original route of ascent). The Arête takes the arête to the right of the Wasdale Crack. Both routes meet on the Shoulder under the summit block which forms the crux of both climbs. The Gap is the cleft to the left of the Needle, between it and the main crag. Threading the Needle (M) is the traverse of the Gap and is a popular scramble. The highest mountain in the distance is Scafell Pike.
Photo right: What goes up must come down, but how? A climber on the summit of Napes Needle with another about to join him.
Photo below: An unusual view of the Wasdale Crack, taken from the Lingmell Crack.
Photo below right: Stephen Reid on Sick Heart River (E2, 5c), a new route he put up with Ron Kenyon on Napes Needle in 2000. The climb follows the arete above his head and was the first new route on the Needle for over half a century. The name is taken from the title of a book by John Buchan. (Photo: Colwyn Jones)
The Happy Couple! (Photos by Colin Smith - Studio671)
Richard later contacted us to say, "Bit of background info - Angela has always said that she wanted to get married in St Olaf's Church in Wasdale which is the smallest church under the highest mountain next to the deepest lake in England... Therefore I couldn't help myself and Napes Needle had to be the goal for proposal. I carried the ring up in a box hidden in my chalk bag, led the route to the Shoulder and then brought Angela up to join me. I then lead the final pitch to the top, but once I was there and had brought Angela up I thought it a bit too precarious given the emotion of what I was about to do, so in true climbing style I assessed the risk and decided it would be better to ask her on the Shoulder....What a fantastic climb and thanks to your website for much needed details on how I should protect the top!!! Still running off the adrenaline of it all!"
Ivan Waller famously did a headstand on the summit, Millican Dalton used to guide parties up it and then produce a spirit stove and brew tea on the top and someone once took a violin up to play, but we''ve never heard of a marriage proposal before. Congratulations to you both from all at Needle Sports!
"Haskett-Smith, Haskett- Smith, Alone he slew the Monolith.".
This Bronze Statuette of Napes Needle was presented to WP Hakett Smith in 1938 by the FRCC after he had made a 50th anniversary ascent of the Needle on Easter Sunday, 1936 (aged 74!). It is now rather aptly in the possession of Needle Sports. The bronze was commissioned by GR Speaker (President of the FRCC in 1938) and made by Una Cameron. Only two copies are known to exist, the other being in the possession of the FRCC.
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