Never Ever Say Never, new Scafell Buttress winter climb by Dave Birkett
Last weekend Dave Birkett climbed what is being hailed as one of the most important new winter routes in Britain's Lake District for the last quarter of a century, Never Ever Say Never VIII 8 or E7 5c on Scafell's East Buttress.
Dave Birkett, one of Britain's strongest, active and most talented all-rounders, has made the most of outstanding winter conditions in his home stomping ground the Lake District - the beautiful National Park in the north of England - with the first ascent, spread out over a two day period, of the winter route "Never Ever Say Never" VIII 8 or E7 5c on Scafell's East Buttress. This peak is one England's most emblematic mountain crags and, not by chance, one to which Birkett is intrinsically linked.
In all probability it is this intense relationship with Scafell which enabled Birkett to ascend "Never Ever Say Never". The route climbs a slender, tenuous line of ice which forms once in a blue moon and "miraculously" joins three existing summer routes, Gold Rush (E1) the Yellow Slab (HVS) and Overhanging Grooves (E3). The route therefore had all the ingredients of being something extremely delicate and touch-and-go, if not even something very dangerous indeed.
Birkett climbed the route in two rounds, teaming up first with his wife Mary Jenner to climb the first two pitches before wisely retreating in falling light. The next morning he abseiled in to the previous highpoint with Andy Mitchell and climbed the remaining three pitches to the top.
Reporting in full on UKclimbing, Birkett explained the upper pitches: "I made steady progress, even balancing a big hex between knobbles of ice to persuade myself I had some gear. The ice was so thin I couldn't tap it more than once for each placement or there wouldn't have been enough left to climb. Finally, just below the icicle I got a couple of ice screws in which made me feel a lot better for the last steep section to the stance. I brought Andy up and sent him up the last pitch because I'd had enough. Andy climbed it well and we were soon on top."