For well over a hundred years rock climbers have been exploring the Lakeland Fells, finding some amazing crags and putting up routes of all standards, from scrambles to E9 test pieces and everything in-between, both single & multi-pitch.
A good place to start your exploration, is with a guidebook. Thankfully the area is well covered by the excellent FRCC series of guides, and for the visiting climber we recommend ‘Lake District Rock’ published by the FRCC. This contains selected climbs of the highest quality and offers a good overview of the whole Lake District. We wrote the Eskdale section of this guide.
Below are a selection of our favourite crags to get you started.
Single pitch & valley cragging venues
- Raven crag, Langdale – only a 10 minute walk from the Old Dungeon Ghyll, this crag offers a good selection of single and multi-pitch climbs on excellent rock, all with a stunning outlook. Crag descents are mostly straightforward, but care is required and it’s worth carrying your approach shoes for this. Highlights of the crag include: Middlefell buttress (diff); Original Route (Severe); Revelation (HS); Bilberry buttress (VS); Pluto (HVS).
- Scout crags, Langdale – also only a 10 minute walk, this time from the New Dungeon Ghyll. A trio of buttresses offering varied climbing throughout the grade spectrum. Lower Scout Crag is often used by outdoor activity centres and offers a number of easier routes that offer only sparse protection for the leader! Middle Scout Crag is more hardcore, with a number of ‘Extreme’ climbs on very steep rock. Upper Scout is the biggest of these crags and provides pleasant multi-pitch routes with fine views. Routes 1 & 2 at Upper Scout are well worth seeking out and only of V’diff grade.
- Shepherds crag, Borrowdale – a super accessible multi-pitch valley crag offering a wide range of grades from ‘diff’ upwards. Little Chamonix (v’diff) is probably the most climbed route in the Lake District, and gives 3 pitches of wonderful climbing to the top-out onto the belvedere for stunning views over Derwent Water.
- For Granite aficionados head over to Eskdale to play on Hare / Goat / Brantrake crags. No this isn’t little Yosemite, but it most definitely is brilliant friction climbing in an idyllic setting. All 3 crags are easy to reach, so a visit here is about maximising time on rock rather than a long approach march. Beware though, during high summer the bracken takes over the fell-side so the short approach walk can be arduous, take a stick!
- Castle Rock of Triermain – yet another excellent and easy access valley crag that offers perfect, quick drying rock in a sunny setting. All the routes are good, a real favourite of ours is ‘Via Media’ (Severe), which provides steep crack climbing in it’s upper half. Beware the north crag of Castle Rock suffered a huge rockfall during 2018 so is best avoided. This does not affect the South crag.
Valley & single pitch climbing may be all you’re looking for, or indeed all there’s time for. But higher up the fell-side is where rock climbing in the Lake District really excels.
Multi-pitch ‘mountain crag’ venues
- Gimmer crag – the jewel of Langdale climbing offering many brilliant climbs on immaculate rock, with one of the finest backdrops in the country. It’ll take an hour to walk up here, but the effort is well rewarded. 50 metre half ropes are required for the abseil descent. A few routes of particular interest are: Ash tree slabs (v’diff); Bracket & slab (Severe); D route (Severe); The Crack (VS); F route (VS); Kipling groove (HVS); The Poacher (E1) – all amazing routes and there are so many more. The ‘D’ in ‘D’ route = Damn good. The ‘F’ in ‘F’ route = Fantastic!! You get the idea.
- Dow crag – it’s reputation as the cold crag is unfair, it’s often very pleasant here, just not a sunny venue. In common with Gimmer, it’s about an hours uphill walk to the base. The descents are either walking or scrambling although some routes have in-situ abseil gear. For the warm days, there’s a spring located to the right of C buttress, the water here is delicious. Routes worth seeking out include: ‘C’ Ordinary (diff); Murray’s route (Severe); Eliminate ‘A’ (VS)
- Scafell crag – whether it’s long mountaineering routes or technical test pieces, the crags of Scafell will not disappoint. Yes it is an effort to get up there, that’s all part of the adventure. About an hour and 30 minutes walk from Wasdale Head should be enough. Try ‘Grooved arete’ (v’diff) on Pikes crag; Moss ghyll grooves (VS); Central buttress (E1) – these all provide fantastic climbing in an awe-inspiring setting. Those looking for the ‘full-on’ scare factor just need to pop over Mickledore to the East buttress, just looking at it can start the shivers!! I’m told ‘Welcome to the cruel world’ (E9) is brilliant, although it’s unlikely to ever see much traffic due to the improbable terrain covered!! Mickledore Grooves is a classic VS on the East Buttress.
Yes there’s lots of climbing here in the Lake District. And yes we occasionally see some rainfall. So what do you do if having travelled for hours you find the crags wet or the heavens well and truly open?
Wet weather options include: rock scrambling and gorge scrambling.
Crescent climb (mod) on Pavey Ark (Langdale) followed by the continuation up Jacks Rake is enjoyable in most weather conditions, arguably more fun when very wet, especially the traverse under the crescent.
Striding Edge on Helvellyn is another great way to spend a damp day in the Lakes.
Cockley Pike ridge on Ill crag (Scafells) & Cam crag ridge in Langstrath both offer loads of time on rock and are perfect antidotes to a wet day.
Anything else to do here?
The UK’s premier holiday destination offers plenty of distractions for the visitor. Great pubs and restaurants, National Trust properties, Beatrix Potters home, Hilltop, is near Windermere. The towns of Ambleside / Windermere / Keswick / Grasmere all bustle with gear & clothing shops.
Costs & accommodation:
There are no charges to access any of the crags here in the Lake District. So provided you have all your own equipment and don’t require a guide, it’s completely free. Accommodation can be expensive though, definitely worth considering camping options (National Trust have a few good sites) or book hotel / etc well in advance to get the best deals. Check out our links page for a few suggestions. For where to stay, we’d recommend the Ambleside / Windermere / Coniston areas as they are central and allow easy access to the crags. We own and run a B&B in Ambleside, why not check it out if looking for a place to stay: 2 Cambridge Villas
Almost all the climbing here is ‘trad’ climbing, so a full rack of gear is required. Half ropes are best as this gives the option of longer abseil descents / retreats. A single rope is okay for the single pitch crags and easier routes, just be aware of their limitations.
To maximise your time on the crags in the Lake District, why not hire a guide for the day? We know these crags very well and can suggest venues best suited to your style of climbing, we can provide all the equipment too and offer very competitive rates.