Rock Climbing in the Lake District

If you are new to rock climbing, take formal instruction or learn from someone with experience. If you’re already a climber, you know the script.

Climbing, both indoor and outdoor, is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. As a sport it is a great leveller, as although some expensive equipment is ultimately required, it doesn’t help you to defy gravity, merely slow your fall. Having said that, and acknowleging the obvious danger of any sport involving potential falls from height; approached properly, climbing is a relatively safe activity. Figures from the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Organisation for 2005 record 19 deaths on the hills, yet only two of these were rock climbers.

Of course the Lake District is where rock climbing formally began. Whether you take that to be Coleridge’s descent of Broad Stand in 1802, or Atkinson’s ascent of Pillar Rock in 1826 is up to you.

Climbing Crags

The Fell and Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) publish six definitive climbing guide books covering grouped areas, they are:

Gable and Pillar
Dow, Duddon and Slate
Scafell, Wasdale and Eskdale
Buttermere and Eastern Crags

Coniston Area

Cathedral Quarry

Cathedral Quarry is often visited by stray walkers and used by outdoor education groups for abseiling, so if you turn up and it’s busy, you might want to go elsewhere.

Directions: From Coniston, follow the A593 and turn left onto a minor road signposted high park. Take the right fork and drop down through two farmyards to the obvious (limited) parking area. Last time I drove down here, four very large red deer were ambling up the road.

After parking follow the path for 100m then use the steep path to get to the top of the hill. You can ab in from here if you have a long enough rope, or just use the descent route to the left.

There are 22 routes here ranging from E1 to E5, notable are:

Orifice Fish – two star 40m E4 5b, 5c

More Banana Related Japery – two star 38m E4 (F 7a) 5b, 6b

Night of the Hot Pies – two star 30m E1 5b (the only route that I’ve climbed – excellent)

An Alabuse – two star 32m E2 5c

Darklands – three star 38m E3 5c

The Turbulent Beast – two star 33m 6b, 6b

Burly Dudes – two star 22m E5 (F7b) 6b

Basilica – three star 45m E4 (F 7a) 6a

Dow Crag

First recorded as a climbing crag in 1886 when WP Haskett-Smith and JW Robinson climbed on E Buttress, Dow Crag comprises of six buttresses providing over 100 routes ranging in difficulty from Moderate to E6. It’s a stiff one hour walk in from the car park.

Directions: Dow Crag lies 3 miles west of Coniston village. The car park is reached via a turn off (opposite the petrol station) in the village itself, which is signposted “Walna ScarTrack”. After a mile or so you’ll meet a gate, whilst on the way you’ll encounter the steepest section of straight road in the Lake District. Take care on this road which is often populated by walkers and by horses from the nearby riding schools. After the gate you can stop for a refreshing ice cream (if the van is there) then continue left, for a further half a mile. Eventually, the track becomes unsuitable for driving on, and you can park. Follow the track west, then branch right to Goats Water. The crag is reached via the scree slope with the first aid box being a marker for the start of Murrays Route.

There are many climbs of note, amongst them are:

Arete, Chimney and Crack – three star 96m Mild Severe,six pitch

Abraxas – three star 85m E3 5c 5c 4c 5b

Eliminate ‘A’ – three star 107m VS 4b 4b 4c 4a 4c 4b – “One of Britain’s greatest routes”

Giant’s Crawl – three star 115m Difficult, seven pitch.

Nimrod – three star 84m E1 5a 5b 5c

Holocaust – 72m E4 6a 5b 5b

Catacomb – three star 60m E1 5a 5a 5b

Pink Panther – three star 40m E2 5c

Leopard’s Crawl – three star 48m HVS 5a 4c

Murray’s Direct – three star 48m VS 4c 4b 4c

Murray’s Route – three star 78m Severe – “One of the greatest classics in the Lakes” – the only route that I’ve climbed on Dow, something that I intend to remedy soon.

The Shining Path – three star 28m E5 6b

Paths of Victory – three star 59m E6 6c

‘C’ Ordinary Route – three star 100m Difficult, seven pitch

Hopkinson’s Crack – three star 45m HS

Quotes from Al Phizacklea – Dow Duddon & Slate F&RCC Guide

Hodge Close Quarry

Hodge Close is an old slate quarry about 3 miles north of the village of Coniston reached via a turn off on the A593 signposted “Hodge Close Only”. Some of the finest slate climbing in the country is to be found here, both bolted and traditional routes. There are over 80 routes at Hodge, ranging from the odd VS to E7 with most routes in the Extreme grades. Of note are:

First Night Nerves – three star 55m E5 6b, 5a

Stage Fright – three star 50m E6 6b

Ten Years After – three star 45m E4 5c

Wicked Willie – three star 45m E5 6b

Great Expectations – three star 42m E5 6c (F 7b)

Limited Edition – three star 33m E4 6a (F 6c)

Behind The Lines – three star 33m HVS 5a – the only route I’ve climbed here

Malice In Wonderland – three star 45m E3 5c

Parrock Quarry

Parrock Quarry lies adjacent to the north end of Hodge Close Quarry, access is as for Hodge. There are two distinct climbing areas; The upper slabs are open to the sun, whilst the lower area is dark and slow drying. The routes are mainly bolted. there are around 40 routes available a solitary HVS up to E5. Of note are:

The Groove – two star 18m E4 (F 7a)

Master Blaster – two star 18m E2 (F 6a+)

Hang ’em High – two star 40m E5 (F 7a+)

Tilberthwaite Quarry

Tilberthwaite Quarry is a great place for evening climbing as the walk in is just a few minutes from the car park. There are both bolted and traditional routes.

Directions: From Coniston, follow the A593 and after about 2 miles, turn left onto a minor road signposted Tilberthwaite. Follow this road for about a mile until you see the obvious car park. Take care on this road as there are many blind bends and you may meet a mountain biker going flat out in the middle of the road !

After parking follow the (initially) stepped path for a few minutes and enter the lower quarry via a rock archway. The first possibility for an entry point is a red herring.

There are close to 50 routes here ranging from Hard Severe to E6, notable are:

Megabyte – two star 15m E4 6a

Ingham’s Route – two star 16m E6 (F 7c)

Violation – two star 17m E3 (F 6c)

Look Sharp – two star 21m E2 5c

And for those (like me) climbing at lower grades:

Kick Off – one star HVS (5a)

Big Tree Corner – one star 12m E1 5b

Rock Climbing in Borrowdale

Sergeant Slab Crags

I climbed at Sergeant Slab Crag in May 2008. You can see my climbing report by clicking on the link to our blog sergeant crag slabs

Rock Climbing in the Duddon Valley

Running from the Duddon Estuary to Wrynose Pass, the River Duddon marks the line of the Duddon Valley. Somewhat off the beaten track and all the better for it, the valley provides us with some excellent climbing on mainly south facing crags. From North To South the main areas are: Stonestar Crag, Wallowbarrow Crag, Wallowbarrow gorge, Pen, Seathwaite Buttress, Peel Crag, Troutal Gorge, White How Crag, Little Blake Rigg, Burnt Crag and Viz Crag. The valley can be accessed from the north via the Hardknott Pass / Wrynose Pass road, or from the south at the turn off the A595 at Duddon Bridge.

Seathwaite Buttress

Continue past the Wallowbarrow turn off, heading towards the hamlet of Seathwaite and park opposite the church. Seathwaite Buttress lies about half a mile to the north. After parking head left through the stone squeeze stile, turn right and cross the bridge over the beck. After a hundred yards or so strike off right to the bottom of the buttress. If you think you’ve gone to far and missed the right turn, you are probably right. Gear up in the obvious place (below Crackle) and watch out for the ants !

There are around 15 routes on Seathwaite Buttress ranging from Difficult to E2, notable are:

Snap – one star 30m Diff

Alpen – one star 29m VS 4c (two pitch)

Crackle – two star, 33m, three pitch, Severe

Seathwaite Buttress Direct – one star 26m HVS (5a) – a great line

Cereal Killer – 27m MVS (4b) no stars, but an entertaining route at the grade

The descent route is to the left as you look at the buttress

Seathwaite Buttress also benefits from its close proximity to the Newfield Inn – a great pub for an after climb pint, excellent food too.

Stonestar Crag

Stonestar crag is the first large crag on the journey up the Duddon Valley from the turn off the main road after Broughton in Furness. It is usually considered as an evening crag because it it often bathed in sunlight at that time of day, however it merits a visit at any time of day.

The walk in is short and steep and the area at the bottom of the crag for gearing up is narrow and steep. The crag itself is of good quality rock and dries quickly, some green areas are evident though. Descent is to the left as you look at the crag.

The easiest climbs at severe grade, are at the left hand end of the crag, after which the climbs become more difficult until the MVS at the right hand end is reached. There are 16 climbs listed in the guide book, with a few more new routes added since it was published. Grades vary from severe to E4. Of note are the two star Columbia (27m E1 5b), and the one star climbs The Challenger (30m E2 5c), The Breech, (27m E2 5c) and Teenage Mutant Hero girdles (47m E2 5c).