The breathtakingly beautiful Langdale valley is right in the heart of the Lake District National Park. Some of the best rock climbs in the country are here, all within easy reach of each other. There are lots of fantastic easier graded routes making it a great place to practice when you are first starting out and once you know what you are doing there are plenty of more difficult climbs to test yourself on. With so many climbs in the guidebook it can be difficult to know where to start so here are our recommendations and some hints and tips for tackling them.
Moderate – Crescent Climb, Pavey Ark
Is it a hard scramble or an easy rock climb? Either way it is a great route and the perfect way to start our Langdale adventure. Starting well to the left of Jack’s Rake, Crescent Climb ascends a long and increasingly exposed arete to a good ledge where an old piton backed up by a good nut placement provides a belay. Never difficult, the arete is not too well protected and care must be taken with some of the rock in places. We have climbed it in walking boots, which is a good idea if you need some alpine mountaineering practice but if you are new to leading you will probably be more comfortable in rock shoes. From the ledge you climb up at first and then descend slightly to begin the traverse under the overhang. It can often be damp here but the holds are comfortingly large and clean. Take care to protect your second as a slip could potentially lead to a big swing onto steeper ground. A final easier pitch takes you up to the halfway point on Jack’s Rake. From here you could continue to the top, climb Gwynnes Chimney or descend the rake. The latter option is useful practise if you have alpine aspirations and we have used it with customers preparing to climb the Matterhorn.
Difficult – Middlefell Buttress
Middlefell Buttress is a great introduction to multi pitch rock climbing as the route can be broken down into numerous stages and there are plenty of belays on large ledges which makes rope work and changeovers much simpler. The route is suffering a little from polished rock and the original start is probably best avoided due to a risk of unstable rock but this does not detract from the climb overall. Start up a steep wall to the right of the alternative crack lines which are considerably harder than the rest of the route. This leads you up to a good ledge. Another short and polished pitch brings you up to a ledge just below the crux of the climb. From here an awkward mantle-shelf move gains you better holds and good gear. Follow the corner to the left up and then right onto a ledge and then easier climbing, best done in two pitches, gets you to a large grassy ledge. From here another short pitch leads to the descent path around the gully or further scrambling up the hill side if you are heading to higher crags to continue your day. Alternatively it is possible to abseil from a tree down into the gully. There is usually a sling in place to allow a retrievable abseil but a pair of 50m half ropes are required to do this safely.
Very Difficult – Route 1, Upper Scout Crag
“The best pitch of its grade in the valley” and certainly one of our favourite routes for introducing people to multi pitch climbing. Route 1 goes fairly centrally up the crag, trending right to take in the photogenic arete on pitch two. The first pitch goes up a ramp and slabs to a large ledge. Pitch two then moves up towards a committing step right onto the arete. Take a moment to savour the exposure here before moving up to a good ledge. It is best to stop here and take a belay as you can clearly see the whole pitch and back to your second which makes communication much easier. A short third and final pitch gets you to the top of the crag and the grassy ledge that leads round to an easy down climb back into the gully on the right. Protection is not always easy to spot but have a good look around and there is plenty to keep you safe on the route. It is worth carrying some small to mid sized nuts and cams. The route should ideally be done in three pitches; the guidebook only describes two, but we have seen a lot of climbers get unstuck because they have been unable to see or hear each other when the second is struggling with the crux on the arete.
Severe – Slabs Route, White Ghyll Crag
Having completed Route 1 on Upper Scout Crag why not continue up the hill side and head round to White Ghyll? Sitting at the top of the ghyll is a magnificent sweep of rock that is home to the two slabs routes. Both of which are graded ‘severe’ and are a good introduction to the grade.
Severe link up: Original Route, Centipede, Revelation at Raven Crag
Alternatively, a great day out to consolidate climbing at ‘severe’ can be had by linking up the following routes at Raven Crag above the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel. Original Route starts at the lowest point of the crag. It heads up and left, avoiding an awkward crack to a ledge. Above this a tricky mantle-shelf move leads up to the next belay. If you have already done Middlefell Buttress this is a similar move to the crux on that route but with smaller holds. You then traverse left to a belay by a pinnacle. Stepping back right, steeper climbing on good holds leads to the top of the crag. This upper head wall can be split into two pitches or run together if preferred. A narrow path leads round to a tricky down climb past two large split blocks; you may want to keep the rope handy to protect this descent. The next route, Centipede now comes into view. Probably best done in three pitches, the best of which is the middle one. It starts with another committing mantle-shelf move and then follows the right hand side of a slab to a good ledge. Descending back to the main crag brings you face to face with Revelation. This is graded ‘hard severe’ but makes for a fitting finish to the day. All the best climbing is in the second pitch. Climbing up from the large flake belay reach up past the small overhang and commit to pulling up on small holds. Keep going as the climbing above is fantastic. It can feel quite sustained but the holds are always good and gear is close to hand. It is quite a long pitch so make sure you have a good few quickdraws with you; longer ones can be useful to alleviate rope drag near the top. Belay off the large tree root and enjoy the views back down Langdale looking forward to a celebratory drink back at the climbers’ bar in the hotel.
Very Severe – Slip Knot, White Ghyll Wall, Gordian Knot & Haste Knot at White Ghyll
White Ghyll crag is a great venue to get established climbing at the grade of ‘very severe’. Head up the gully aiming for a lone tree in the middle of the screes below the main bulk of the crag.
Slip Knot starts just above the tree. This first pitch is a great warm up, starting up the left side of a slab, close to a corner then moves out right to follow another good crack up to .a ledge. The second pitch leaves the comfort of the ledge with a long stride out left to another smaller ledge on the edge. This move is easier if you are tall. A tricky move past a block gets you to some good jug hand holds and there are plenty more of these all the way to the top of the route
White Ghyll Wall is the next step up the ‘VS’ ladder. The belay for the first pitch is at the far end of a long ledge so take care to avoid rope drag but make sure to protect your second. The second pitch is surprisingly steep and sustained but this is what ‘VS’ is all about. You might find yourself with either good handholds or good footholds and a requirement to commit to moving up, trusting that better holds will soon appear; don’t worry, they do. Upon reaching a ledge you need to move left and step down a short distance to the bottom of groove to belay. This keeps you in sight of your partner and sets you up for the enjoyable final pitch of climbing to the top.
The intimidating overhangs to the left are tackled by some strenuous eliminate lines but more deviously two routes weave their way through the roofs at ‘VS’. Gordian Knot and Haste Knot are tremendous outings both of which have three quality pitches of climbing to savour.
If you are really up for a challenge then you can continue up to Pavey Ark for Rake End Wall, head across to Gimmer Crag for N.W Arete and F Route before finishing your day on Bilberry Buttress back down on Raven Crag this would mean you would tick all the three star very severe routes accessed from Stickle Ghyll in a day.