Raven Crag, Langdale - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Raven Crag, Langdale: Number 1 of 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
This is probably the most popular of the valley crags in Langdale. Part of the reason is its position. Looming over The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and only 10 minutes walk from the door, access is very easy. It is also a very sunny and sheltered crag that genuinely offers year round climbing. The rock is of excellent quality and protection is typically good.
The ultra classic beginners route of ‘Middlefell Buttress’ lies to the left of the main crag and offers huge stances at the top of every excellent pitch. Yes the rock is a bit worn, that’s testament to how good the route is. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve climbed this route, but it’s definitely in the hundreds and sometimes is a few times a week! I still love it.
Descent can be a challenge for the unfamiliar. Either abseil from the big rock spike below the final pitch (recommended). This is a 30m abseil so be sure you have enough rope. Or if wanting to climb the final pitch, which is very good but slightly harder than the rest of the route. A walking descent can be followed into the big gully on the left (looking in). This requires care.
Better than either of the descents described is to continue your upward quest and head for Gimmer Crag to tick some of the mountain routes on there.
Back to Raven Crag and the main bulk of it. First let’s cover the descent as this has posed significant problems over the years.
Looking up at the crag the most popular and easier descents are at the right hand extremity and come down into a bay between Revelation and Centipede. There is an exposed scramble (grade 2) that negotiates some big rock steps to reach the trees at the top of Revelation. This requires extreme care and is worth staying roped for and taking belays.
Alternatively, there is now a chain around a big rock spike. An abseil of about 30m reaches easy terrain near to the base of Centipede. Unfortunately, the line of the abseil is also a drainage line, so ropes will get damp in all but the driest of seasons. A bit of care and forward planning can help minimise this though.
Okay, so that’s a brief overview of how to get down, now onto the fun stuff, going up.
Revelation at HS is a stand out route that if longer would have probably made the cut for ‘Classic Rock’. It can be done in 2 pitches and used to be described as such, but it feels even better when climbed in a single pitch of almost 45m. This is a steep and sustained climb that offers mostly great rock, loads of good protection and amazing positions.
It is also very photogenic so try and organise for a mate to stand at the base of Centipede and get some action shots. As a final bonus, this climb finishes below the nasty scramble descent, instead an easy scramble leads back to base in just a few minutes.
Maybe Revelation isn’t the warm up route you had in mind, fair enough. Let’s look at ‘Original Route’ which weighs in at Severe. Varied would be the perfect one-word summary for this route. Things start steeply and continue in the same vein for pitch 2, then a scramble veers leftwards to negotiate some dubious rock. The route then trends rightwards onto the headwall and gives steeper climbing once more. Take care with some of the holds on this pitch!
An airy belay stance can be enjoyed before tackling the final pitch, which for many will give the crux moves. Thankfully these are well protected as is the route in general and overall the rock quality is excellent. Route finding is tricky once on the upper pitches, so be sure to properly read the guidebook descriptions.
After a warm up route, Pluto takes some beating for a HVS leader. It took me a few years to pluck up the courage to do this one, but I was so glad when I did. It is a stellar line. Starting with a steep crack, so well protected assuming you can hang on long enough to place the gear! This gives satisfying climbing up to a big ledge below the overhangs of the main wall. It all starts to look rather intimidating now and the adrenaline is pumping at the thought of what lies ahead.
A long traverse pitch sees you going rightwards under the overhangs, with some tricky but never desperate moves. A comfortable stance is reached, set up a grandstand belay here to watch as your second comes across.
The final pitch is the crux of the climb, with a few 5a moves. For those wanting an easy finish, it’s possible to join Savernake (S) over to the right. But for the full effect, step left to tackle the uncompromising rock just right of the groove and a few wiggles to reach the top. Protection on this final pitch is just okay in my opinion, not a place to be pushing your grade.
As the day wears on and the sun starts to dip in the western skies, ‘Evening Wall’ is bathed in sunlight and beckons those still in the shade.
With care this can be done in 2 pitches, but many will prefer to climb it in 3 and this is what I’d recommend. The route starts at the base of a gully on the left side of the crag and pitch one takes a rising traverse to reach a prominent pinnacle. Belays can be found directly above this. The climbing on pitch one is okay, but not amazing.
Pitch 2 is far better. This starts fairly directly up a slab then veers left to a mini traverse to reach steeper ground, climb through the overlaps using big jugs to reach another belay ledge. This is a great vantage point.
Pitch 3 begins steeply but soon eases. The positions throughout are fabulous though. Belays at the top of the route are tricky to find and need careful checking as not all the rock is beyond suspicion.
Leo Holding takes flight - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Kelly leading pitch 3 of Pluto - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
White Ghyll: Number 2 of 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Occasionally referred to as ‘White Fright’! The climbing here demands a little more than mere grades can suggest. So go prepared for a good adventure in a beautiful setting and the rewards will be reaped.
The approach walk is around 45 minutes and for the most part very steep up the loose and usually dry stream bed. The small oak tree is a popular gearing up spot and a handy place to stash bags as from here all routes are pretty easy to access.
Once below the crag it can feel intimidating, the atmosphere is more like that of a mountain crag, but this is definitely an after work venue during the summer months so we’re giving it the label of valley crag.
There are a number of descents from this crag. Left and right are straightforward scrambles back to base, but there are also numerous abseil descents dotted along the top of the crag. These seem to change more than I can keep up with, so I won’t attempt to detail them here other than say half 50m ropes will be the minimum required for most of the abseils.
Slab Route 1 – As an introduction to White Ghyll or for easier cruising, aim for the slabs at the left end of the crag. This is where the angle eases and the rock provides more frequent jugs whilst sill being accepting of plentiful protection.
There are 2 slabs routes, both excellent but maybe Route 1 gives slightly better climbing. It is fairly easy to confuse the two routes and even switch from one to the other part way up the route. These routes are best climbed in 3 pitches but can be split into more or done in less.
Haste Knot – this is what you’re really here for right. This route has a reputation and rightly so as it packs a punch and is sustained throughout all 3 pitches, utterly fabulous.
Pitch 1 has a few tricky moves but is merely the warm up. Arrange a good belay and get ready to watch the fun unfold as the leader begins an epic traverse towards ‘the coffin’. The terrain covered on this pitch is quite out of character for VS climbing and usually only found on harder routes. Absorb it all in to the full, hoping the leader has placed plenty of good protection to minimise the swing potential.
From the end of the traverse pitch a fabulously steep and juggy wall leads to the top of the crag at about 4b. What a delight that was.
I’ll let you into a secret of mine about Haste Knot. The first time I attempted this route, which was a long time ago now. I wasn’t ready for it and had quite a wobble on the traverse pitch. We decided the best course of action was to bail from the route at that point as a fall from the traverse pitch would be awkward to recover from and potential hurt quite a lot.
Having climbed it a couple of times since, it still gives me the jitters.
The Gordian Knot – a fitting accompaniment to the plethora of VS’s on White Ghyll and very much a full value tick at the grade.
A fairly steady initial pitch that doesn’t offer great protection then leads to the 2nd pitch and the meat of the climb. Stepping out right to below the big groove, it’s possible to place good gear here (offset IIRC) then follow the groove that gives sustained climbing with spaced protection to reach the next belay. A 4b jug fest leads to the top of the crag, take it easy on this pitch and absorb the beautiful surroundings White Ghyll offers.
White Ghyll Wall – the first time I climbed this route was with a couple of good friends and I seconded all of it. Whilst Tony was leading pitch 2, the crux pitch, the guidebook dropped out of his pocket and came hurtling passed us which gave us both a fright. Thankfully between us we could make out where we were going for the rest of the route.
Pitch one is straightforward but retains moisture and has a few loose rocks. Pitch two is amazing, with the crux at the start and ends with a hanging belay in a wild position. The final pitch descends slightly before moving onto the left wall and follows jugs all the way to the top, there’s a theme to these finishing pitches at White Ghyll.
Sam on The Gordian Knot - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Me leading pitch 2 of Perhaps Knot (E1) - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Shepherds Crag: Number 3 of 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
For many, Borrowdale is the go-to valley for Lakeland cragging. There’s plenty good reason for this as accessibility is typically very easy, views are wonderful and the crags are sheltered and quick to dry. With Shepherds Crag being the epitome of this.
Little Chamonix – a classic with the positions and moves to match. Whilst pitch 1 isn’t anything spectacular, the upper pitches make up for it and the rock quality improves plenty.
As is pretty standard at Shepherds, trees are a feature on this route and it can feel like you’re in the forest at times. Once above the trees and being perched below the final pitch the feeling is fine and all is well in the world. Add to this a top out onto the Belvedere with those serene views over Derwent Water and a smile is firmly planted on your face. An easy descent walk completes the loveliness.
Donkey’s Ears – This is another route giving woodland wanderings, but mixed in is some fun and adventurous climbing.
Despite the appearance of pitch 1, the rock is all nice and clean and the climbing is great, but not well protected, so go steady.A large and comfortable belay can be taken below the ‘Donkey’s Ears’. From here either go direct via the ‘Ears’ or traverse left across the slab. Both ways are really cool. Belay again once above these difficulties. Then it’s a scramble / cave across the boulder-field to reach a final, short pitch to the top.
Jackdaw Ridge – Really easy going climbing that can be turned into a scramble at almost any point. When approaching the crag from Lodore Farm, this is the first climb to be reached, located just beyond the descent gully. Climb to the Oak then tackle steeper moves to reach slabby ground. Follow this to the top of the crag in as many / few pitches as is desired. Ledges are numerous and spacious.
Eve – this is a fairly soft-touch VS, but pitch 2 is serious for both leader and second. The climbing is excellent throughout, but particularly memorable on pitch two which takes a traverse line leftwards. The belay stance at the end of pitch 2 is a great vantage point to watch teams on neighbouring routes too. Pitch 3 starts with a few stiff moves before easing.
The Brown Slabs routes – these routes are located at the far left end of the crag and offer pleasant climbs on good rock, all in a sheltered setting. As the names suggests, these are slab climbs, but most follow distinct features such as cracks and aretes.
Expect some polish and think of all the history that comes with that. Some of these routes are from the likes of Frankland and Beetham, no doubt with a short length of hemp rope tied around their waist, hob-nailed boots, and tweeds.
Brown Slabs Crack is an excellent VS starting at the right hand corner of the slab and tackles the crack all the way to the top. It is slippery, so beware. But it’s a great route.
For an easier offering have a go at ‘Brown Slabs’ – this is a Diff’ and also follows a crack, starting directly behind the tree in the middle of the crag.
But if you came here for the views, it has to be ‘Brown Slabs Arete’ – this is also a Diff’ and starts at the left side of the crag, just before it turns a corner. Pitch 1 is climbed to gain the arête, above this follow the fine arête to the top, with marvellous views the whole way.
The descent from Brown Slabs is a bit awkward if damp as it passes through woodland, making for greasy rock underfoot. Follow the small path down the hillside taking care and plenty of time and all will be well. And definitely take approach shoes for this descent.
Anna & Jo at Shepherds Crag - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Climber on Brown Slabs Arete - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Black Crag, Borrowdale: Number 4 of 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Taller than Shepherds and still offering the easy access of a relatively short approach walk and valley crag setting. Add to this a plethora of fine routes and sun from lunchtime through to sunset, there’s plenty to tempt us to Black Crag. Personally it’s my favourite valley crag in Borrowdale.
Most are visiting for the classic line of ‘Troutdale Pinnacle’ – and why not. It is a stunning line, weaving a path through some ‘improbable at the grade’ terrain.
By maintaining the grade of Severe throughout, Troutdale Pinnacle manages to visit lots of this section of the crag, so really is the perfect introduction and will build familiarity for future visits. But it’s worth mentioning the more notable pitches of 4 & 6.
The traverse of pitch 4 can seem daunting, don’t be phased, the holds are good when they need to be and protection is good and frequent. Once beyond the traverse a few very steep moves are needed to reach the belay, tackle these with a positive approach, knowing the gear you’ve placed is bomber.
And pitch 6, this is why we are here. Belaying atop the pinnacle, gazing out of Troutdale and into Borrowdale, looking up at the fine arête that awaits, it’s magic. Step off the pinnacle into a groove then swing right into more dramatic positions before steeper moves lead back left for the jaw-dropping finale. Savour it, then set up a belay to be in good position to watch your second.
For those wanting more direct lines up the crag, there’s Troutdale Pinnacle Direct (VS) and Troutdale Pinnacle Superdirect (HVS) which as their names suggest, are more direct. They are both fantastic routes and well worth doing. They both include the wonderful final pitch of Troutdale Pinnacle too. Out of these two routes, Superdirect is the better protected climb. I found ‘Direct’ to have some blank sections of slab climbing which felt quite intimidating.
Raindrop – at E1 this is a more challenging way to reach the pinnacle. But wow is it good. The first pitch follows a well protected crack. I know from experience that it’s pretty easy to place good gear in this crack, I’ve fallen on my gear here at least a couple of times!
Then when pitch 3 comes the excitement levels rise once more as the climbing becomes steeper and hugely exposed. Thankfully the protection options are pretty good. I’ve seen a few whippers on this pitch, but thankfully not taken any. It’s a long pitch too at over 30m. Finish up Troutdale Pinnacle.
Descent from Black Crag is via a small path leading up and rightwards. Beware, it stays close to the edge of the crag for a while.
Troutdale Pinnacle - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
On the Pinnacle - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Wallowbarrow Crag: Number 5 of 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Costa del Duddon. Well it is no secret that a lot of rain falls in the Lake District, but some parts are distinctly wetter than others. The south end of the Duddon valley is a place the rain tends to miss out so this crag and others in the Duddon are a good bet when the Central Lakes is getting a wash.
But don’t visit just to escape the rain, climb at Wallowbarrow because the climbing on offer is fabulous.
It is generally okay to park at High Wallowbarrow farm, but please park considerately and ask at the farm if this is okay. There is usually an honesty box with donations going in the direction of Duddon Mountain Rescue team, so please dig deep.
A 15 minute walk through native woodland brings you to the base of the crag, just next to a route called ‘Thomas’. If you climb Severe or above I urge you to do this route, it’s fabulous. 3 pitches (can be done in 2 long pitches) sustained at the grade, well protected and on excellent quality rock.
Moving rightwards, a couple of minutes walk leads to the base of a clean slab, the home of 3 VS routes, the best being ‘Digitation’. 2 varied pitches of impeccable climbing with the first being a long slab pitch with a distinct crux. The upper pitch gives steeper climbing and is equally satisfying, if somewhat shorter.
If looking for an easier outing or a warm up before the VS’s, just a few metres further right is ‘Trinity Slabs’ a V’diff offering great rock, decent protection and big stances. This is a good place to practice multi-pitch rope work.
Wandering back over towards ‘Thomas’ and go just a little further, to where the old dry stone wall is and more plumb routes will be found. A few of which share the same start up the broken rib.
The slightly easier offering of ‘Bryanston’ traverses rightwards from the top of this rib and gives a tremendous finale on pitch 3. The overall grade is MVS. If you enjoyed this one and want more of a test, try ‘Malediction Direct’. I’m afraid it’s the same start, but from the top of pitch one this VS takes an uncompromising line through the overlap and ventures through impressively steep terrain. Thankfully, like most of the routes at Wallowbarrow, the protection is good wear it’s needed.
There are descents down either side of the crag so just pick the closest to your chosen route. Well worth having approach shoes with you as both descents can be damp and will be slippery in rock shoes.
For me, the best attribute of Wallowbarrow Crag is the view. Sit at the top of any route here and gaze out over the Duddon valley with its patchwork of fields and wooded slopes, a true delight.
I hope you've enjoyed '5 best valley crags in the Lake District'
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Miguel cruising on Digitation - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Me on Bryanston - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District
Look out for the crazy sheep at Raven Crag - 5 Best Valley Crags in the Lake District