Central Buttress of Scafell - Background Wasdale

Scafell Pike

Siegfried Herford performed the first ascent of the Central Buttress of Scafell in 1914 - a great jump forward in British Rock Climbing

The first ascent of the Central Buttress of Scafell by Siegfried Herford in 1914, just a few months before the start of the First World War, was years ahead of its time and was one of the greatest jumps forward in the history of British Rock climbing.  In 1914 rock climbing technique was still rudimentary.  They were climbing in nailed boots with hemp ropes and had only just started climbing one at a time with the leader belayed by his second, tied into the rock with a loop of the climbing rope around a convenient rock spike or threaded behind a jammed chock stone.  The leader couldn’t afford to fall off as he was very likely to pull off the rest of the party on the rope.


The Central Buttress of Scafell is a magnificent lump of rock, much steeper and more formidable than anything attempted before.  The key was a slender chimney through an overhanging block with a big chock stone just over half way up. They climbed it by one of the team, George Sansom, sitting in slings attached to the chock stone, while Herford climbed up and over him to then struggle up to the top.  The rest of the climb took a very direct and bold line to the top.  Herford was one of the finest rock climbers in the rich history of our sport.


The second ascent was in 1922 and in 1924, Mabel Barker, born and bred in North Cumbia not only made the first female ascent but led the crux pitch in fine style. I climbed it in the early eighties with the best of modern equipment and protection and found it a real challenge.  It remains one of the great classics of Lakeland climbing.


Fact nominated and Background Informaton supplied by Sir Chris Bonington, a Patron of CCHT

Image National Trust