Classic Lakeland Rock Climbs
Winter is moving away and our thoughts turn to springtime in the Lake District. A rainbow of colours radiating from the fells and showing the landscape at its best. And let’s be honest, this is a landscape that always looks magnificent.
Amongst these thoughts and musings, there is space given to the rock. What routes to climb this year, what goals to set, which crags are yet to be discovered.
The feeling of warm Lakeland Rhyolite or Andesite as fingers press against its hard surface is a joy that’s difficult to describe, it must be felt, for the sensation is magical and uplifting.
High on my tick-list are Scafell, Dow, Piers Gill crag, Gable, and Esk Buttress. But these will have to wait until the summer months when days are longer and the rock warmer. For springtime climbing it’s the valley crags that capture our attention.
The wonderfully situated Wallowbarrow crag in Duddon valley, with its sunny perch overlooking the patchwork of farms spreading towards the coast.
Raven crag and White Ghyll in Langdale. Both receive sun throughout the day and offering superb quality routes throughout the grade range, with plenty of easier offerings too. For Raven crag a good start is Revelation (HS), follow this with Pluto (HVS) and finish with Evening Wall (S) as it basks in the evening sun. This is a fine 8 pitch climbing day. Oh and did I mention the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub that is quite literally at the bottom of the crag, handy for post climbing refreshments!
On to Borrowdale, a mecca for generations of climbers and rightly so.
For many Shepherds crag comes to mind first. It’s a good crag, and views over Derwent water from the Belvedere are suitably impressive. But walk an extra few minutes to Black crag and find even better routes that are longer and in even more impressive surroundings, it’s also likely to be a little quieter. Whilst there try the classic ‘Troutdale Pinnacle’ and if looking to up the grade get on ‘Troutdale Pinnacle Direct’. Climbing both makes for a really cool climbing day with about 200m of ascent.
For those seeking a ‘quick fix’ on a single pitch crag, Goats crag is well worth a visit. The walk up to it is short, steep, and well worth the effort, for the setting is idyllic. Grades start at ‘diff’ and go all the way to the mid ‘E’ grades, so something to suit most. I can recommend taking a picnic and flask of tea/coffee as it makes for a perfect lunch spot.
Then there’s the high friction slabs of Eskdale Granite. Low lying, sunny, and almost roadside, there’s a lot to be said for seeking out a day or two over in Eskdale. The drive over Wrynose and Hardknott pass from the central Lakes starts the adventure and is a fitting precursor. Coming over the crest of Hardknott on a clear day is still a jaw-dropping moment for me (and I’ve driven that route 100’s of times).
I can recommend an Eskdale ‘link-up’ climbing session visiting Hare crag, Tortoise crag, and Goat crag. All offer fine slab climbing on impeccable granite. Protection is not as good as elsewhere in the Lakes, so a bold approach is often required (or hire a guide for the day). These slabs are best visited during springtime before the bracken takes over the valley once more.
Classic Lakeland Rock Climbs
Where to start, there are so many worthy routes. It’s the big crags that hold the jewels though. Dow, Gimmer, Scafell, Great Gable, Pillar.
All are steeped in history and nostalgia and all offer the finest climbing in all of England, let there be no doubt about that.
After a few warm up climbs on the valley crags, the next crag on the radar will likely be Gimmer. This is due to its rapid drying nature and relative low level and sunny aspect, making it a viable option early in the season.
Main wall climb (V’diff): only 3 pitches, and doable in 2. This is an often overlooked area of the crag, but is every bit as worthy as the main buttress area. A good route to do on the way to the South East face, where more delights await.
Bracket and Slab (Severe): a serious route for the grade, with some challenging moves over ‘The bracket’. This is also one of the longest routes on the crag and it’s superb. We think a more fitting grade for this route would be VS4b
Or for something less intimidating try: ‘Ash tree slabs’ (V’diff): 2 pitches of immaculate slab climbing, providing move after move of 3 star climbing on beautiful Lakeland rock. The exposure mounts quickly when stepping left across the slab on pitch one. This route leads up to ‘Ash tree ledge’ – the large ledge system splitting the crag at about half height.
Above Ash tree ledge lie many more wonderful climbs. To keep the grade consistent with Ash Tree Slabs, try ‘A’ route. This leads to the top of the crag in 5 short pitches, at never more than ‘Mild Severe’. It’s a perfect introduction to Gimmer.
For something more challenging, try: ‘The Crack’ – this gives 3 sustained pitches of Very Severe 4c climbing that is mostly very well protected, particularly when climbing the crack. Of the many routes I’ve climbed on Gimmer, this is my favourite so far.
If you’re thinking of climbing in the Lakes this year and would like to hire a guide for the day, we’d be delighted to help. We know most of the crags really well, so can advise on the best venues and routes. See more about what we offer here