Anna on Gimmer headwall - Best Rock Climbing in the Lake District
Best Rock Climbing in the Lake District - Gimmer
So yesterday we managed to get up to the finest crag in Langdale and what is the most reliable high mountain crag in the District. Gimmer Crag.
This crag offers something for all climbers, from easy routes with massive holds, right through to the mid-E grades and lots in-between. The most satisfying routes I’ve climbed on Gimmer have been VS routes and I think I’ve done all of them.
But yesterday was a take-it-easy sort of day and I was with my good friend Anna. We set off up Middlefell Buttress on Raven Crag. This is my go-to approach for Gimmer as it shortens the long uphill walk and adds more climbing, making it more of a mountaineering day.
Middlefell Buttress was fairly busy and the belay ledges super sociable, so we enjoyed some good chats with fellow climbers. However, as we had a lot of ground to cover it was decided we would skip around the middle pitch of this route to speed things up a bit.
Once at the top it’s scrambling and walking to reach the main event. Gimmer Crag. Every time this crag comes into view on the approach walk my heart jumps for joy, I love it.
We soon arrived at the gearing up ledges and unburdened ourselves of heavy backpacks. There was a large dog sunbathing and he looked longingly at us for some attention, we obliged. It was clear the crag was busy, with climbers dotted all over it and quite a pile of backpacks at the base. We chatted about what route to do and decided on the first pitch of Bracket and Slab to gain Ash Tree Ledge and we’d take stock again once up there.
Some climbers were just finishing pitch one of our chosen route, so we relaxed a little more before setting off. Once on the rock I very much felt in my happy place, moving slowly yet fluidly over impeccable rock. One or two tricky moves help keep the focus and remind me that it’s a good idea to place regular protection when leading.
I clip in at the belay ledge, where a fellow climber greets me. Turns out he is from Northumberland Mountaineering Club, one of quite a few I’ve meet over the weekend and all have been so friendly it makes me want to join too. He was continuing up Bracket and Slab, and with teams ahead of them I decided we should venture onto something less busy.
Anna cruised up the pitch and soon joined me at the spacious belay ledge. We scrambled over to where a number of the Alphabet Routes start and were met by I think 6 other climbers all about to start a route. We kept on going, I had my eye on D Route. Alas there was a big queue for D Route and around 15 people on the belay ledges below. We retreated back to where C Route begins, waited our turn and went for it.
Having done the first pitch of C Route many times, it all felt familiar. However, it has been many years since climbing the route in full and I had forgotten it entirely. Thankfully we had the guidebook with us - well, Anna did - and this kept us on track. It isn’t often I’d need to look at a guidebook when on Gimmer, but was definitely helpful this time.
Pitch one is little more than a scramble and leads to another large ledge. Pitch two takes things up a gear…..or 3! The initial moves off the belay ledge are about 4b/c and offer only reasonable protection, so quite a bouldery start. It was exciting and fantastic. The remainder of the pitch offered slightly easier climbing but still excellent. Due to climbers ahead I had to stop short of the next belay ledge and create a hanging stance belay on tiny ledges. This at least gave me a better view of Anna as she began the pitch and this proved to be quite helpful.
Anna needed a small amount of help to get started on this pitch - it was after all a fair bit harder than we had been expecting - and thankfully I was able to assist with a quick un-assisted hoist. Other methods would have worked equally well too, it’s just what we chose from the toolbox of skills we had on tap. Soon she was cruising up the pitch towards our tiny belay stance.
One more pitch would see us at the top of the crag. It looked to be a good one as it negotiated some overhangs. Up, left and around the overhangs brought me onto the headwall of Gimmer crag, just wow. The climbing by now was easy, but I slowed in order to fully absorb the majesty of this place. Each hold beautifully formed, feeling secure, solid. Looking around it is a sea of igneous rock, us little humans clinging to it, spiders on the wall, perched high above glorious Langdale, Windermere in the distance, and a sea of cloud rolling in over Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. The scene being truly sublime.
There might be better places to be on the planet, I just can’t think of any.
Sorting ropes at the top, we chatted to yet more NMC folk who were looking for the best route back to the crag base. We were taking the easy walking route back to the Stickle Barn. This is quick and easy, perfect for anyone wanting to climb to the top of Gimmer but not wanting the abseil descent, meaning less rope can be carried.
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Scrambling up pitch 1 - Best Rock Climbing in the Lake District
Climber on Bracket and Slab - Best Rock Climbing in the Lake District