Category: climbing

Murrays Route, Dow Crag

I know, it’s a bit weak really, I’ve never been to Dow; the hill or the crag, before. In my defence it does have a bit of a reputation, the kind that makes you want the right conditions before you take the plunge.

This week conditions arrived, and then some! Blimey it’s been hot. A trip to Pavey Ark, described by one friend as “a big sponge” had to be curtailed due to heat: In March!

First visits to any crag usually overawe me, I was expecting to be, and was duly overawed by Dow. The phrases ‘amazing rock architecture’ and ‘serious territory’ could have been applied if i hadn’t been busy trying not to get too freaked. At least our early start was rewarded with sun bathed walls.

Southern Slabs (S)

Mark’s route of choice was a variation start to C’Ordinary – Southern Slabs (S) came out favourite. From the starting belay there was opportunity to admire the hard climbs above Woodhouse’s Pinnacle (Woodhouses Arete E6, Shining Path E5 and Paths to Victory) lots of wild looking overhangs and even more scary looking rusty pegs.. Southern Slabs turned out to be a pleasant meander across the slabs looking for some kind of gear placement. One does feel one ought to try and place some.

The route finished at Easy Terrace. I was a little concerned about the decent; as I usually am in new venues. Having someone who knows the way off takes off the stress that you might go wrong and plunge to your death; Just the not tripping up and plunging to your death to worry about then. As these things invariably are, the decent turned out not to be to bad.

Murray’s Route (S 4a)

Murray’s was my route choice, I figured a classic rock tick might be nice. The proviso was that I led the 1st pitch; the slab of which is regarded the crux. I found the preceding chimney harder, certainly more intimidating, It took a cheeky thread runner and the appearance of some solid holds about half way up to bring back a little confidence. Conversely the slab seemed all there in terms of feet and holds, although a little polished. I quite enjoyed the working your feet across the slab part.

Mark led through into Abraham’s Cave. We split the traverse pitch into 2 – both sling-on-flake’tastic and some pretty wild positions. The final pitch also fell to me, some lovely moves I thought, laying off the edge of the crack. The difficulties over I managed to reach easy terrace , just! on our 40m ropes.

As we topped out we saw we no longer had the crag to ourselves, and watched a couple of guys on what we guessed must be Eliminate A – which also looks like it gets into some pretty wild positions.

Classic Langdale, Esoteric Langdale

Classic Gimmer

A chance meeting outside the ODG on a very sunny Sunday afternoon, and we  both had our hearts set on Gimmer; it looked so good against the blue sky.


Gimmer in the sun, just makes you want to go there.

Monday wasn’t quite the cloudless sky that had sparked the plan, but nothing to dent the enthusiasm. On the the walk up we chatted about the routes we wanted to climb; Mark was eyeing up Introduction, I was fancying C route, or maybe Bracket and Slab for a classic rock tick.

By some classic slight of hand I ended up with the Introduction lead. A MVS slab leading up to Ash Tree Ledge. Lovely delicate climbing that played to my strengths, and lots and lots of gear.

From the ledge we watched as paragliders set up to jump from the top of Pike ‘o’ Stickle. Our interest turned to dread as the first jumper mangage to catch rock on the way down, lots of screaming and leg clutching, but he managed to land it safely in the valley bottom. As the afternoon progressed a rescue involving 2 LAMRT landrovers and the air ambulance unfolded. Glad my lead was over as I found it a little unnerving.

Finding the start of C route proved to be a little complicated, but Mark managed it. Initial route finding apart  it seemed a nice route, but i’ll admit that my concentration was gone by then, slipping into the role of dutiful second.  A series of Abseils and that steep descent saw us in the valley floor as the light started to fade.

Esoteric Kettle Crag

I hadn’t even heard of Kettle Crag when it was suggested for Tuesday. To my surprise it turned out to be in Langdale. Wonder how many other crags I haven’t heard of? With promises of a 30 min walk in and rock like Black Crag it seemed a good plan.

Arriving after a steep up, then a steep down to be confronted with a steep gully, and even steeper looking routes we all felt intimidated and deflated.  As we got orientated, cross referencing the 1999 guidebook with FRCC new route printouts, the grades seemed quite stiff for the lines.  I opted for a newer line, Serendipity (S) , to start things off.  Luckily it didn’t look quite so steep from the bottom.

Kettle Crag

Serendipity, on the Major Slab of Kettle Crag. 30m of grippy

Photo courtesy of Mark Eddy (Mountain Journeys)

After a few damp moves it was on to great clean rock. Very Black Crag in it’s grippyness and availability of holds.  A nice route. Cheered by the quality of the rock we did a few more climbs before cold got the better of us. Mark led Minor Slab (MVS), and Kat led Red Slab (HS).

Our opinion of Kettle Crag greatly improved, we decided it was one to comeback to on a sunny day, when everywhere else would be busy.  Interesting to see that the Grades on UKC are a bit lower than those on the FRCC site.

Hello Rock

I’m never going to turn down the chance to spend time in the Lakes, especially when it involves Langdale and climbing. A weekend, crept up to 5 days; did you see Mondays weather forecast? – no way we were going home.

Early March weather can be fickle. Friday morning, sitting in the rain in a lay-by by the side of the A69 I wasn’t optimistic about our climbing chances. But a little bit of patience, breakfast and a look round NeedleSports (oh look a new guidebook!) was all it took for some nicer conditions to arrive.  That new guidebook featured Castle Rock, perennial Lakes poor weather alternative.

Climbing at Castle Rock. Not bad for Early March.

Photo by Sam Marsland

Sun and fast drying rock made for a almost balmy afternoons climbing. We managed to clock up six routes before darkness fell.

Saturday morning lying in a tent, listening to the rain, I knew there was no climbing today. Waterproofs on then, and scrambling in Crinkle Gill.  I’ve no scrambling experience to compare it to, but I thought it was a grand day out through great rock architecture.  Never too hard, never too wet and continually interesting. We carried on up to Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, then back down to the Old.

Sunday. Snow! An overnight dusting on the fells, a cold rainy morning so a gentle bimble over to Cathedral Quarry and Hodge Close to look at lines of bolts and more big impressive rock lines.  Those people with jobs to get home to departed at 3pm, just as the sun was coming out.  Time then for a few evening routes on Walthwaite.

The forecast for Monday was the same symbol all day – the round yellow one. A good day to be unemployed. We hooked up with Mark with vague plans for Eskdale granite, but somehow got waylaid at the top of Wyrnose by Longscar and Black Crag.  I was pretty happy to get on with a HS that I’d fancied last year.

Jolly Roger HS, Black Crag Langdale

Jolly Roger HS, Black Crag Langdale

Photo by Mark Eddy

Tuesday and another sunny one. Grand plans for Gimmer dampened by the stiff cold breeze we opted to stay low on Raven Crag. A return to Bilberry Buttress, but no amount of gentle persuasion could get me to lead the first pitch on that minimalist rack. So the first 2 pitches fell to Neil, I was persuaded to lead the final pitch though.  I’m not sure it was very hard, it just felt grimy.  Finished the day with a trip up Cenitpede, but by then i was cold and fading – one to come back to I think.

So plenty done then, not a bad early foray. Super excited to be heading back to the Lakes properly soon and a summer of rock.

Days on Great End

It’s not been a bad week to be unemployed.  Conditions and partners coincided to provide some great hill days.

Regular climbing partner Mark had a long held ambition to climb Cust’s Gully on Great End.  I was a little apprehensive that the guys seemed to each have a couple of axes each, also winter walking’s the limit of my experience. But blue sky, snow and confident companions can be very convincing.

The first interest came with a icy step, overcome with pointer and the loan of axes from Neil.  Further interest came with a wiggle under a jammed block; elegant no, fun yes. So yeah, a nice introduction to winter mountaineering.

Cust's Gully

Unfortunately Mark had to work the next day, so Neil and I decided to hook up and take advantage of the promised conditions.  Getting an appetite for winter mountains then going to NeedleSports is a bit like going to the supermarket when you’re hungry.  I might have gotten a bit over enthusiastic, walking out with an upgrade to my walking axe – a set of DMM flys.

After considering our options, we decided to head back to up to Great End, with a mind to Central Gully.  Yesterday we had walked in via Sprinkling Tarn missing the head on views of the crag. From today’s walk-in it was impressively obvious where we were going.

Great End approach

This time there was ropes involved, me on the blunt end.   Pitches one and two seemed nice – variously trying to pay out fast enough, not stand on rope and getting used to my new tools. The original plan was for taking the right hand fork, but when we got there the left hand way looked better.  Climbing the ice was pretty fun.

Langdale from Great End

I led through the last (easy) pitch, got to top out to warm sun, and an inversion over the Lakes.  There was a a ‘fuck me’ followed by a ‘wow’. Those adjectives pretty much apply to both these days as well as that view.  Up there with the best hill days. Cheers guys.

Myths and Legends

There’s something about Bowfell that makes me feel like a small girl in a very big world. The walk along the climbers traverse feels wild – the paths good but the ground drops away enough for your peripheral vision to freak. Then there’s an ever flowing spring (the water spout) – and the water from it tastes like the best thing on earth. I find it pretty hard not to imagine i’m on a magic quest as i fill my bottle from it.

on the Climbers Traverse

The first time i walked in along the traverse i went to go up the great slab (bounded by the equally well named river of boulders), a grand day out – but all the way in the corrie is blowing your mind and bowfell buttress is looking awesome, and moving straight to the top of your wishlist.

Bowfell Buttress VD***

The right partner (cath) and the right day (sunny) came together not long after the first trip. I might have undersold the walkin, but the enthusiasm wasn’t all one sided. There is a bit of a walkin- a couple of hours – we walked, then lunched beneath the buttress

or you could just follow the crampon scratches

hand drawn topo shows the way

Cath led the first pitch, but handed chimney duties over to me. The chimney is super polished – and there’s no doubt where you need to smear – crampon scratches abound. Its short though so the funs over quickly. Back over to Cath to lead through to the bottom of the slippery crack.

One guide describes the crack something like “vital holds have become severely polished due to decades of popularity”, all the guides seem to agree that it’s harder than VD. It is . Actually it probably suited me, steep but with small positive holds, albeit ones that needed a bit of delicacy. Belaying tucked in beside “the Gendarme” looking down the Langdale valley i’ll admit to having had a bit of a moment – like lots of things had come into balance. Pretty special.

The rest of the climbing was lovely – although the top pitch was a bit wet due to the heavy rain of the last few days. We topped out and sat warming up in the sun, eating our flapjack.


warming up, back in the sun

All that’s left is to descend back to the bottom of the crag, and head back home along the climbers traverse, now feeling like you earned the right to be there.

Climbers Traverse - Sue

I can see the pub from here


There’s only one way to end a day like that – in the Old Dungeon Ghyll!