My top routes of each grade in the Lake District
Updated: May 19
Now this is just my opinion, and there are plenty of other quality routes out there; don't be completely swayed by star ratings, classic status, and everyone else saying something is great. Often they are right, but climbing is a subjective experience and sometimes we get a bit caught up by popularity; make your own judgements, and don't be afraid to disagree with the masses!
The below list will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration, and useful tips for when we can climb again. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about these routes or venues.
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Corvus - Raven Crag, Borrowdale
This classic multipitch route is just great.
Great rock, great gear, great views, great belay ledges!
The walk in is also fairly relaxed for a mountain crag. 35 minutes of gentle walking and then 15 minutes up hill. It's worth noting that there aren't many other routes at this crag that are as well frequented, so if it is a sunny, summer weekend then it's likely there will be other people on the route. And at this grade, they could range from super quick, to infuriatingly slow!
My top tips when you have slow parties in front of you....
- Relax and take your time too. Enjoy belay ledge picnics and take in the views. I should acknowledge here that I'm not very good at this and like to rush everywhere, it's something I need to work on!
- Have a conversation early on with the parties in front. Make friends, be really polite and nice, and then, later on if you do ask to overtake on a big belay ledge, it's much more likely they will say yes. Nervous climbers can feel a little flustered with you climbing right behind them, so be considerate and have open conversations.
- Have other route options in mind, be flexible, the rocks will always be there.
Corvus gets suggested as an 'all-weather' route. I would suggest that this is only the case if you are a confident mountaineer and scrambler, and aren't intimidated by climbing on wet rock in boots! It would be good practise and a good day out, but my preference would be to climb it on a warm day after some dry weather. The crag faces North East, so check the wind direction and temperature, and it often still holds some wet streaks low down.
Climb it in boots or approach shoes if you are a confident climber, but don't underestimate the small footholds on the crux traverse pitch....and consider the confidence of your second here too.
Needle Ridge - Napes Needle, Great Gable
In good weather, the Cumbrian mountain crags are definitely worth the walk-ins. This crag has absolutely amazing rock and is in a stunning location. Choose a warm, calm day and link it in with an ascent of the iconic Napes Needle (HS) for the full experience. You can also finish up Pinnacle Ridge (Mod) to continue the climbing right on to the summit of Great Gable.
Truss Buttress - Gouther Crag, Swindale, Eastern Lakes
An unexpected gem in a beautiful, quiet valley.
It follows excellent rock up a wide, easy angled rib, and has plenty of options for intermediate belays. The only slight downside is that the rock quality deteriorates towards the top.
Gillercombe Buttress, Borrowdale
A great mountain multipitch climb on a sunny crag, with a relatively gentle walk in from the Honister parking. The route starts harder and gradually eases towards the top. It is a little 'wiggly' at first, so is good practise for thinking about your second and getting used to climbing out of sight of your belayer. Again this is a popular classic climb, so consider your options if it is a potentially busy day.
Botterills Slab - Scafell Crag
A fantastic, historical climb on this intimidating north facing crag.
I first climbed this route while I was at university; we bivvied for three nights in incredible weather, climbing each day on the high mountain crags. At the time I was more familiar with valley rock and indoor climbing, so it took me a while to get used to climbing on a bit of lichen and route finding on big mountain crags!
Top tip: don't venture up to climb here unless its warm enough to be in a T-shirt in the car park!
Pluto - Raven Crag, Langdale
This is one of my favourites partly because the climbing is great, and partly because I have lots of fond memories of climbing it with good friends. The route has lots of variety; a short, tricky corner crack, followed by a great (bunched) traverse and then a final pitch up the steeper wall above.
Be sure to research the descents for crags in advance; because this crag is just a few minutes walk above the pub people can be very blasé and there have been fatal accidents descending here in the past. Plan the safest way down that matches your experience. There was some rockfall here a few years ago that made the down climb descent more exposed, and now there is also an in situ abseil point further over which goes down a slightly damp and gravelly gully but misses out the down climb. The BMC RAD database app and UKC are good resources for researching up to date information that might not be in the guidebooks.
Mandrake - Quayfoot Buttress, Borrowdale
This crag couldn't be more roadside, and is great for a quick day or sunny evening hit. The rock is really great quality and the gear excellent, and obvious. There is also a good abseil point at the top if you don't want to walk down! The other climbs at this venue are great too.
Aaros - Shepherds Crag
A great, long face climb on a justifiably popular crag. The holds are positive and the gear is all there, but you do have to hunt for it a little at times and make some good sequence decisions.
Equus - Gimmer Crag, Langdale
One of my first E2 leads. I took a few falls on this route trying to get over the initial overlap. But for that reason I was really proud of myself, as I don't often push myself hard enough on trad to fall! A good reminder of the satisfaction that comes with trying our hardest, even if that means we fall or fail. Equus is a long route, so take plenty of quickdraws. You will be well out of sight of your belayer towards the top, so make a plan for this in advance.
Eastern Hammer - Gimmer Crag, Langdale
A great climb and the next step up from Equus. Pumpy, fun, a little committing, and great!
The initial overlap looks intimidating but there are actually great holds there...it's afterwards that the route gradually gets harder for a while!
Grand Alliance - Black Crag, Borrowdale
Full value E4 in my opinion; long, varied and committing.
I spent a fair while on it before committing to the thin crux moves (one of my fortes is holding on...it's the moving I struggle with!). The start is often a bit damp and grubby to get up to the E4 pitch. It looks very intimidating moving through the overlaps above, but this section isn't actually too hard, you just can't hang on forever, need to route read well and have a committed approach. There is a good rest on the headwall before committing to a thin sequence. Take the time to look for gear down and right, and try to spot all the foot and hand holds before going for it. A great, memorable route made even better by an abseil descent!
The Cumbrian, Esk Buttress
I haven't actually done this one, but I've heard it's amazing - it's on my tick list!
But, for now, it's COVID lockdown, so I'll get back to dreaming of climbing and hope for a return soon!